An experimental mRNA vaccine provides protection in preclinical animal models against infection from Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Results from these preclinical animal models suggest that the vaccine prevents the development of Lyme disease and may represent a powerful tool in reducing the number of Lyme disease cases.
The vaccine, described recently in Cell Press, uses the same messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology employed in the Pfizer and Moderna SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, which was pioneered at Penn. Along with mRNA vaccine pioneer Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research and director of Vaccine Research at Penn Medicine, Pardi and his laboratory identified one of the proteins in B. burgdorferi that elicit a potent immune response, called outer surface protein A (OspA). OspA is a conserved protein in the multiple strains of B. burgdorferi, making it an ideal target for preventing an initial B. burgdorferi infection from progressing to Lyme disease.
Tests in animal models showed that the mRNA vaccine targeting OspA induced a strong antigen-specific antibody and T-cell response after a single vaccination that could protect from infection of B. burgdorferi. What’s more, the vaccine elicited a strong memory B cell response, which can be activated much later to help prevent infection by B. burgdorferi long after the vaccine is administered.
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