Current Affairs Czechs develop vaccine against Lyme disease

29-01-2008 16:20 | Ruth Fraňková

The tick season here in the Czech Republic only starts in spring but the campaign against the tick-borne encephalitis has already been launched, urging people to get vaccinated on time. However, ticks also transmit another disease – Lyme disease – which can seriously harm people’s health, especially joints and the nervous system, if untreated, and no vaccine has been available so far. However, this may be about to change. A Moravian company Bioveta in cooperation with Palacký University in Olomouc has just completed the development of a vaccine against Lyme disease.

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The incidence of ticks in the Czech Republic has been on the rise in recent years. In the past ticks were common only in low-lying areas but nowadays you can find them virtually all over the country. With heightened number of ticks the number of people infected with tick-borne diseases, encephalitis and borreliosis, is increasing as well. Bioveta is already producing a vaccine against Lyme disease for cats and dogs. Now, the company may have good news for people as well. Marek Vystavěl is the marketing and sales director for Bioveta:

“The disease itself has the same etiological agent that is identical for both humans and animals. Our knowledge related to the research and production of the vaccine against Lyme disease for dogs and cats had been used as the basis of the vaccine for people. The vaccine that is being developed now should be an injection that should induce protective immunity against clinical Lyme disease.”

The newly developed vaccine is now going through a process of verification. Marek Vystavěl again:

“The basic laboratory research has just been finalised. The results of this research are now being verified by a prestigious German institute dealing with Lyme disease. In case our results are confirmed in Germany, we will proceed to clinical and pre-clinical testing.”

If the tests are successful, Bioveta may become the first company in the world to produce a vaccine against Lyme disease. However, Mr Vystavěl says it may take a few years before it reaches the market, pointing out that clinical testing is usually a lengthy process:

“These tests are very demanding and time consuming and it’s very difficult now to estimate when the vaccine will be available but generally speaking we have to count with couple of years. We are currently looking for a strong partner who will help us not only with financing but also with some research development activities.”

Until the vaccine is available, people can only protect themselves from Lyme disease by avoiding ticks: that is, by dressing sensibly and applying insect repellents when going to high-risk areas.

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