Taking Aim At Lyme Disease | June 24, 2013 Issue - Vol. 91 Issue 25 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 91 Issue 25 | p. 10
Issue Date: June 24, 2013

Cover Stories

Taking Aim At Lyme Disease

Efforts are under way to develop a vaccine and better diagnostics for outdoor threat
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: Lyme disease, CDC, ticks
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Credit: Scott Camazine/Science Source
Lyme disease tick. Deer tick (Ixodes scapularis, previously known as Ixodes dammini). It transmits lyme disease to humans. The female tick can feed on human blood, and in the process may transmit the bacterium Borrelia burgdorfi, cause of Lyme disease. Symptoms of this disease include skin lesions, cardiac and neurological abnormalities, and arthritis. Lyme disease is carried by I.scapularis in north and mid-west USA; and in Europe by the tick I.ricinus.
 
Credit: Scott Camazine/Science Source

Barbecues, camping, hiking, and biking in the woods—the many outdoor rituals and activities of summer are in full swing. Memorial Day picnics soon give way to Fourth of July fireworks and August heat.

But by autumn, tens of thousands of people in North America and Europe—especially children, but many adults, too—will have had their summer idyll shattered by contracting Lyme disease, a serious bacterial spirochete infection spread to humans by the common deer tick.

Thousands more people will not even realize that they have been infected with the Lyme disease organism, Borrelia burgdorferi. Infection occurs when a tick carrying B. burgdorferi finds a human host, begins to feed, and transmits the bacteria.

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Over the 30-year period of 1982 to 2012, about 400,000 cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. were reported to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. However, the disease is likely to be underreported. Some people estimate there could be as many as 600,000 cases per year in the U.S., growing at about 6% each year.

Some 70% of infected individuals become aware they’ve contracted Lyme disease after they develop a bull’s-eye skin rash called erythema migrans. Other symptoms include joint, heart, and central nervous system problems. Symptoms may take months or years to erupt, and the damage to health may become chronic and permanent.

There is an urgent need to prevent infection, through a vaccine, and to improve diagnosis of the disease. C&EN examines this in two stories. First, we report on the struggles accompanying vaccine development, which are social and scientific.

Without a vaccine, the emphasis is on new diagnostic tests, the topic of the second story. Current tests only detect antibodies formed in response to the infection, which may take several weeks for a person to develop. Negative results are common in the early stages of the disease when antibiotics are most effective. But new ways to measure infection quickly are showing signs of progress.

 
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Comments
Kathleen M. Dickson, BS Chemistry (June 24, 2013 1:22 AM)
A bogus vaccine was the cause of the "controversy" (crime) in the first place, so I hope you fellas can look into what OspA was before you do any further reporting about "Lyme Disease."

http://www.actionlyme.org/index.htm
cave76 (June 28, 2013 4:01 PM)
"Efforts are under way to develop a vaccine and better diagnostics for outdoor threat"

That's good and very much needed. But until a patentable vaccine and/or better diagnostics are developed then could the CDC prioritize what Mr Ben Beard (CDC) has promised?

I quote him:
"In the absence of a vaccine, preventive measures will continue to be a top priority for CDC, Beard says. “We do everything in relation to that goal,” he notes. “It’s a challenge, yes, but impossible, no.”

The easiest and least expensive way would be to recommend that all physicians prescribe a few days of doxycycline upon tick bite. To all. Excepting, of course, those people who are allergic to it.
Let that be widely known and accepted. Put it on CDCs web site ----at the top!
Sandra Graham (July 1, 2013 12:55 PM)
It's absurd that I can vaccinate my dogs against Lyme disease but there is nothing available for humans. As the story suggests, this is a failure of culture more than science and we'll never get a vaccine in hand as long as companies fail to move into clinical trials. Given the very serious and permanent damage that Lyme disease can cause, I can assure you I would tolerate a great deal of aggravation and expense in order to know I was protected against it. Like much of surburbia, my yard is teeming with tiny deer ticks, and I feel like I'm rolling the dice every time I go outside to garden. One of my dogs was left with severe arthritis after a bout with Lyme disease and I know of many people in Northern Virgina that have contracted it.

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