A Vaccine for Lyme Disease . . . For the Mice?!

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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Is this the way to prevent Lyme disease? In the February issue of Journal of Infectious Diseases, a new oral vaccine placed in food given to mice significantly reduced the level of infected ticks in the treated areas. This, of course, should help lower the risk of human infection.

Remember that white-footed mice are the major reservoir for B. burgdorferi (the bacteria that causes Lyme disease) which is transmitted to the Ixodes scapularis tick when the tick feeds on the mice. This tick is also the vector for transmission to humans. So this approach is aimed at controlling Lyme disease by breaking the cycle of transmission between the tick vector and the reservoir host, which is the white-footed mouse.

In this 5-year study, they used oatmeal-based bait tagged with vaccine. They placed live traps 5 nights per week from May to September for the mice to feed on. Ticks, who feed on the mice, were then tested for the antibody levels. The authors report that oral vaccination of the mice resulted in 23% fewer ticks infected with B. burgdorferi at year 2 and 76% at year 5 in the treated areas. That’s huge at 5 years.

This vaccine, given to mice, may diminish the threat of B. burgdorferi to humans via reduction in the number of infected ticks.

Dr O.

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