A Lyme vaccine is in late-stage trials. Could an anti-tick vaccine be next?

Lyme disease vaccine candidateNortheastern Global News (6.28.2024) published the article, “A Lyme vaccine is in late-stage trials. Could an anti-tick vaccine be next?” As a vaccine for Lyme disease enters late-stage clinical trials, researchers are exploring the possibility of an anti-tick vaccine to protect against various tick-borne diseases. This research focuses on a phenomenon called acquired tick resistance (ATR), where repeated tick infestations lead to an immune response that causes ticks to fall off and die when attempting to feed on the host.

Constantin Takacs, an assistant professor at Northeastern University explains that an example of ATR works effectively in hamsters, where repeated tick exposures lead to ticks failing to feed properly and dying. “It’s an acquired immunity process,” Takacs says. Research, including studies at Yale, suggests that vaccinated hosts could develop an immune reaction to tick saliva, preventing ticks from feeding and transmitting pathogens. “The idea is that if you vaccinate using tick saliva components, you induce an immune response akin to a prior tick exposure,” Takacs says.

Pfizer and Valneva’s Lyme vaccine, VLA15, is in late-stage trials, targeting an outer surface protein of the Lyme-causing bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. The vaccine blocks the protein OspA, preventing the bacterium from leaving the tick and infecting humans. If successful, the vaccine could significantly reduce the 476,000 annual U.S. Lyme disease cases.

Studies looking past a vaccine theorize that an anti-tick vaccine could potentially protect against other tick-borne diseases like babesiosis and Powassan virus. Tick ecologist Richard Ostfeld advocates for pursuing an anti-tick vaccine, particularly for high-risk areas, to share the “superpower” of killing ticks widely. 

For More Information: 

Read the Northeastern Global News Article here.

Read more about Lyme Vaccines on the LDA website here.