Lyme disease is the fastest-growing vector-borne (bug-transmitted) infection in the United States today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and stopping the spread of the disease is difficult.
In fact, in 2016, the confirmed number of cases of Lyme disease was over 25,000. Another 10,000 were probable cases of the infection.
Compare that to a decade before, in 2006, when just 20,000 cases of the illness were confirmed.
Lyme disease is shared with humans through tick bites. Today, tick populations are booming. In turn, so are the number of Lyme disease cases.
Researchers know how to prevent a Lyme disease infection. Each day, after all, pet owners protect their animals with flea and tick collars and medicines.
A human Lyme disease vaccine, however, is nowhere to be found.
That wasn’t the case just under two decades ago. A Lyme disease vaccine was available, and it was effective.
“The vaccine LYMErix was developed by SmithKline Beecham [now Glaxo SmithKline] and licensed in the 1990s,” says Dr. Meghan May, associate professor of microbiology and infectious diseases at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine.
While the vaccine was designed as a three-dose medicine, studies showed the vaccine was 49 to 68 percent effective at preventing Lyme disease with two injections. After the third and final injection, that number jumped to 76 to 92 percent effective.
But despite this success, LYMErix didn’t last long. In fact, it was pulled from the market just a few short years after it was introduced.