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Lyme Disease Vaccine Gets Closer To Reality

A French company has completed the first round of human trials for a new Lyme vaccine. It could be another five years before it comes to market.
Neil R - Flickr (http://bit.ly/2JVfNMg)
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A French company has completed the first round of human trials for a new Lyme vaccine. It could be another five years before it comes to market.

It’s hard to believe, but we actually had a vaccine for Lyme disease in the 1990’s.

It was pulled from the market in 2002 after a class action lawsuit alleged that it infected people with Lyme rather than protecting them from it.

The government didn't find any evidence of that, but it’s taken 15 years for a drug developer to get close to getting a new one to market. 

Now, a French company called Valneva has taken its vaccine through Phase 1 of a three-phase testing regime.

“That’s what keeps me up at night -- that we know we can make a vaccine,” expert Stanley Plotkin told Living Lab Radio. "But it doesn't exist."

Plotkin is an Emeritus Professor of the University of Pennsylvania, Adjunct Professor of the Johns Hopkins University and he serves as a consultant to vaccine manufacturers. (He notes that he does not accept consulting fees to avoid any conflict of interest.)

He knows a thing or two about what it takes to make a new vaccine. Plotkin developed the rubella vaccine and is the lead author of Plotkin’s Vaccines – the medical handbook that is now in its seventh edition. In recent years, he’s been a vocal advocate for a vaccine for Lyme disease.

“As far as how optimistic we should be, I would say cautiously optimistic,” Plotkin said when asked about the prospects of a new vaccine.

He added that it could take another three to five years before we see a Lyme vaccine in the pharmacy. With an estimated 300,000 new Lyme cases each year in the United States, Plotkin said he would like it to be sooner.

Elsa Partan is a producer for Living Lab Radio. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.