Preventing Lyme disease with a shot? UMass researchers are working on it

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts are getting closer to bringing an effective Lyme disease shot to the market.

There are concerns about a Lyme disease shot and that it will not protect against other tick-borne illnesses. Some also fear it might reduce common-sense measures to reduce exposure to ticks.

Constant fatigue after having a baby is normal, right?

"I just had a baby. And I was just exhausted all the time. I mean I'd sleep until two in the afternoon. And then still be tired," said Bonnie Lavoie.

Lavoie knew something wasn't right and she got the answer after her doctor ran a test.

"She called me back a couple of days later and said, you're going to be surprised by this but your test came back positive for Lyme Disease," said Lavoie.

Lavoie is one of the growing thousands who contract Lyme disease each year.

"The numbers of Lyme disease are rather epidemic proportion," said Dr. Mark Klempner, MD UMass Medical School.

To get those numbers down, Klempner and other researchers at UMass Medical School are developing a novel way to prevent Lyme disease - with a shot.

If a shot to prevent Lyme Disease sounds vaguely familiar, it should. A vaccination was introduced about 20 years ago and was actually quite effective, but some claimed it caused long-term side effects.

The manufacturer wound up pulling it from the market after lawsuits were filed and sales dropped.

The shot being developed at UMass is not a vaccination. It is, instead, an antibody to the disease that would be administered annually, much like a flu shot.

"We would propose to get injected in people sometime in April... March or April and it would last through the entire tick season to prevent you from getting Lyme disease," said Klempner.

Klempner says the advantages of injecting an antibody over a vaccination include, possibly fewer side effects, only one dose is needed, and immediate immunity.

"We're really focused on making sure that the medicine we develop will last the whole tick season," said Klempner.

Therein lies the biggest challenge facing the UMass team and the focus of testing efforts this year.

It took Bonnie Lavoie two years to get rid of her Lyme disease. She would welcome a yearly preventative shot.

"I was so sick for those two years. It was awful," said Lavoie.


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