Czech scientists develop Lyme disease vaccine

Tick, photo: Richard Bartz, CC BY-SA 2.5

Czech scientists have developed a new vaccine against Lyme disease. Presenting their breakthrough on Tuesday, the researchers said the vaccine against the tick-borne illness was ready to use on animals – and will hopefully be available for the treatment of humans in future.

Tick,  photo: Richard Bartz,  CC BY-SA 2.5
To date the world has seen only one vaccine against Lyme disease, a bacterial illness that can affect the joints, heart and central nervous system if untreated. However the US-produced drug faced legal challenges and was withdrawn from the market in 2002.

Now a team of Czech scientists has developed a new vaccine against the tick-borne disease in collaboration with Moravian pharmaceutical company Bioveta. Among them is Jaroslav Turánek of Brno’s Veterinary Research Institute.

“So far the vaccine has proven possibility of application in the veterinary sphere – meaning dogs, cats and horses. But it has been created in such a way as to be also possible to use on humans. It’s not a whole cell vaccine, like current veterinary vaccines, but is a recombinant vaccine; this means it is far safer and with a lower risk of side effects for people.”

After four years of work the scientists are convinced the vaccine is ready for use on animals and have applied for a patent. Bioveta is hoping to have it on the veterinary market around four years from now. However, Jaroslav Turánek says there is still some work to do before it can go on sale for people.

“At present we are doing the first tests on human cells, in vitro, where we test the safety component of the vaccine. The first experiments show that it works. But so far they are only in vitro experiments.”

All going well, Bioveta hopes to be able to make the vaccine available for humans in about six years’ time.