Science

New mRNA vaccine could prevent most tick-borne diseases (including Lyme disease)

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A Yale University research team announces that it has likely taken an important step in the fight against Lyme disease and other diseases associated with ticks with the development of an mRNA vaccine that provides “multi-resistance” to bites. The vaccine somehow trains the immune system to recognize a tick’s saliva, allowing it to attack the area before pathogens can cause disease.

The vaccine, whose preclinical tests have been shown to be conclusive, is based on the same mRNA technology that enabled the development of COVID-19 vaccines. But instead of instructing the body’s cells to make spike proteins to train the body to attack SARS-CoV-2, this vaccine instructs cells to make a series of proteins found in the saliva of the body. black-legged tick Ixodes scapularis. In other words, a very different approach is taken, targeting the tick itself.

Because of this, the vaccine not only reduces the risk of contracting Lyme disease, but also the dozen other diseases that can be transmitted through bites. Lyme, the most common, is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Existing vaccines specifically target this bacterium, but never until now has a “broad spectrum” tick vaccine been successfully developed. Called 19ISP, it contains instructions for 19 different proteins found in the saliva of I. scapularis. The details were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Prevents most tick-borne diseases.

“We found that animals vaccinated with 19ISP developed redness of the skin after being bitten, indicating that their immune system was activated and recruiting inflammatory cells at the site to fight infection,” says Andaleeb Sajid, co-author of the main study. “Like other animals that developed immunity to ticks after repeated bites, the ticks were unable to feed on the guinea pigs and were quickly shed.”

In addition to showing that the vaccine rapidly induces an immune response at the site of a tick bite, the researchers found that vaccinated guinea pigs were also resistant to infection with the Lyme disease bacteria when faced with carrier ticks. of the pathogen. This indicates that a vaccine to resist tick bites may be sufficient to prevent most tick-borne diseases.

Human clinical trials of this new vaccine are unlikely to be completed for a few years, as this preliminary study has led to curious caveats. If the vaccine was effective in guinea pigs, the researchers found that it did not induce immunity against ticks in mice …

For now, scientists don’t know the exact reasons, but they suggest that since mice are true natural reservoirs for ticks, the parasites may have developed unique ways to coexist with them.

It trains the immune system, but it also “alters” during a bite.

According to Erol Fikrig, lead author of the new study, this vaccine is unique in that it targets the carrier of a pathogen rather than the pathogen itself. This means that it should offer broad protection against all types of tick-induced diseases and not just against a single pathogen.

In addition to its direct action on the ability of the immune system to respond to the bite, the vaccine also makes it possible to “signal” a person who has been bitten by a tick shortly after its installation. This allows the tick to be quickly removed before it can transmit a pathogenic bacteria or virus.

“The vaccine improves tick recognition, partially turning a tick bite into a mosquito bite,” Fikrig said in a statement. “When you smell a mosquito bite, you squash it. With the vaccine, there is redness and probably itching, so you can recognize that you have been bitten and then you can remove the tick quickly, before it has the ability to transmit B. burgdorferi ”.

Science Translational Medicine

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