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Tick week: Preventative shot against Lyme could hit the market in 2024

'LymePrep' shot is like a flu shot. Patients get it before tick season begins, with protection lasting for 9 months.

MAINE, Maine — It's "Tick Week" at NEWS CENTER Maine. Every day we are bringing you all the latest information on ticks, the diseases they carry, and how scientists are trying to protect people. 

We've told you how Mainers will be part of clinical trials for one of two promising vaccines for Lyme disease. Now we are focusing on a preventative shot — that's not a vaccine. The Lyme pre-exposure shot, known as LymePrep, is being developed by MassBiologics, the nonprofit vaccine maker overseen by the UMass Chan Medical School.

The shot delivers a single anti-Lyme antibody directly into a patient's bloodstream versus a vaccine that triggers the immune system to make antibodies to fight disease. That antibody circulating in the blood kills the Lyme-causing bacteria inside an attached deer tick.

"It's neutralized while still in the tick before it gets transmitted to you," Dr. Mark Klempner, a professor of medicine and a former executive vice-chancellor of MassBiologics, said. 

Klempner said phase one clinical trials involving 48 patients would wrap up in August. The trials are taking place in Lincoln, Nebraska, where little or no Lyme cases have been reported. That's key because researchers need to know the antibodies in patients are from the shot and not from previous exposure to the disease. So far, there have been no significant adverse reactions.

"Even at the highest doses, the only significant side effect is a little bit of pain and sometimes irritation at the injection site," Klempner said, 

Klempner said phase two and three clinical trials are expected to get underway next spring in New England. Researchers will be looking to recruit participants who spend a lot of time outdoors.

"We want to find populations who are at the highest risk of getting Lyme disease," Klempner added. 

He said the data from the trials is vital in determining the safety and effectiveness of the shot. If approved by the FDA, LymePrep would be given annually before tick season begins. And like the flu shot, it would be available at local pharmacies.

Twenty years ago, Jon Cole was bitten by a tick, which led to several health problems. He owns Northwoods Tick Control, treating properties for ticks and teaching homeowners how to keep their families safe. He is encouraged to see a greater sense of urgency when giving patients more options to protect themselves against Lyme.

"Preventative shots are all tools we could have soon, and if someone chooses to, could be helpful for them," Cole said. 

Klempner said if the LymePrep shot is approved by the FDA, it could hit the market sometime in 2024 and, like other preventative shots, will be affordable.

For more information on Lyme disease and tick-borne illnesses, including disease tracking data in real-time from the Maine CDC, click here.


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