30-thousand cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC each year, and the numbers are growing.
The majority are here in the northeast.
Now there is striking new progress to report on a shot that could offer 100-percent protection against contracting Lyme.
To be clear, this is not a vaccine. Western Mass News Reporter Beth Ward traveled to a lab associated with UMass Medical School in Boston, where scientists said they are on the verge on something big.
Nurse practitioner Cindy Kennedy's Lyme disease went undiagnosed for years.
“I was sick for over three years. The exhaustion was stupendous. Trying to work and take care of my family was almost impossible. The fatigue was horrible. The joint pain was terrible.”
She went to at least 10 different doctors and she was tested for Lyme along the way.
Finally, at her last resort, Cindy went to yet another doctor.
“It was then that they did extensive testing and realized I had been misdiagnosed for a long time and the chance for recovery was not 100%.”
From Cindy's home in Wilbraham, we travel just 80 miles down the Mass Pike to Massbiologics, part of UMass Medical School.
Here, scientists have made tremendous progress in developing medicine in the form of a seasonal shot to prevent Lyme disease, called Lyme pre-exposer prophy-laxis or Lyme prep.
“In this case, what we've done is we've honed in on exactly the anti-body that will prevent you from getting lyme disease transmitted to you,” said Dr. Mark Klempner.
This is not a vaccine, which causes the body's immune system to make a whole host of antibodies.
Dr. Mark Klempner, Executive Vice Chancellor of Massbiologics, and Professor of Medicine at UMass Medical School told Western Mass News that they have isolated that single human antibody, so that when a tick bites, it kills the bacteria inside the tick’s gut before Lyme can then be transmitted.
One injection of the single anti-body in the spring could last through the fall, when ticks are most active.
“We take ticks that carry the bacteria-- many of them-- six or seven, put them on a small rodent, and then give that mouse a little bit of that anti-body. It's been 100% percent effective in preventing many ticks from transmitting.”
Yes, he said 100% effective in preventing those mice from getting Lyme disease.
“If we're exposing a little tiny mouse to six ticks that are all carrying the bacteria, and it can be 100% effective there, we think that in a person, by giving a comparable amount of anti-body, getting exposed to one tick-- they'll have a big margin of safety for protection.”
This a-ha moment in identifying that single Lyme-preventing anti-body actually came from trial and error with the discontinued Lyme vaccine, of which Dr. Klempner was also involved.
“I think it shouldn't get lost on anybody that what we learned out of the vaccine trials, and from the limited amount of vaccine that was used, was very critical to this.”
The Lyme prep shows virtually no adverse side effects, but more testing needs to be done.
Something Cindy Kennedy is watching closely.
“I am doing much better,” Cindy said. “I am probably about 85% better. I have stopped all types of conventional treatment and have moved on to something more holistic.”
Cindy Kennedy said essential oils have changed her life, and is also launching a blog to help others affected by Lyme disease.
The big question is when will the new Lyme prep be ready for the general public.
Dr. Klempner told Western Mass News to go through the next trials required by the FDA could take another 2-to-3 years.
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