The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an estimated 300,000 cases of Lyme disease each year to state health departments, referring to the number as only a "fraction" of the total number of cases in the United States. Now, data from a European biotechnology company suggests that such case numbers could be prevented with the development of its novel vaccine candidate.

Pre-clinical information collected by Valneva was published in a November study in the science journal PLOS One, and proposes the development of a vaccine that targets Borrelia, a species of bacteria that are commonly transmitted through ticks and lice. Ticks, specifically, are the source of Lyme disease. "There is currently no Lyme borreliosis vaccine available for humans, although it has been shown that the disease can be prevented by immunization with an OspA-based vaccine (LYMErix)," a press release said.

Lyme disease-carrying ticks are often found in forests and wooded areas in Asia, parts of Europe, and the United States, where it is the most reported vector-borne illness. Between 65,000 and 85,000 cases are reported annually in Europe though these numbers are known to be underreported. The disease has no vaccine, and is transmitted through at least four different forms of Borrelia. This can lead to serious problems in joints, the heart, and the central nervous system, if the disease is not treated.

The study revealed that the vaccine’s contents, which include outer-surface protein A (OspA), could likely make it an efficient form of protection for humans against any of the Borrelia.

Dr. Stanley A. Plotkin, a vaccinologist and professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, and creator of the rubella vaccine, said in the press release that “these pre-clinical data are an encouraging step toward a vaccine that is badly needed because of the huge number of Lyme disease cases in the USA and Europe.”

Valneva's proposal is not for the first vaccine used to treat Lyme disease. Two were originally developed in the 1990s, and were known as ImuLyme and LYMErix. Only LYMErix was licensed and placed on the market from 1998 to 2002, after which time it was voluntarily withdrawn due to campaigning from anti-vaccine supporters who criticized it for unwanted side effects. OspA was the base of for both, according to the study.

Source: Comstedt P, Hanner M, Schuler W, Meinke A, Lundberg U. Design and Development of a Novel Vaccine for Protection against Lyme Borreliosis. PLOS One. 2014.