Jessica Reeder worries about ticks and the diseases they carry. She had Lyme disease, her brother had Lyme disease, and every fall her children come home from school with notes reminding parents to do a nightly tick check. Even in Philadelphia, where Reeder lives, the bloodsuckers lurk in the woods around the playground. Her family used to go tent camping with friends, but they stopped after a few people in the group contracted Lyme.
“It just got to the point where people were too stressed out about it,” she says.
Reeder made sure that her shih tzu, Rory, got the canine Lyme vaccine, but she must protect the human members of her family the old-fashioned way: bug spray, long pants tucked into socks, and frequent tick checks. There’s no Lyme vaccine on the market for humans.
Valneva, a French biotech company focused on developing vaccines for infectious diseases, hopes to change that. Six years ago, the company began working on a vaccine against Lyme disease, which is now part of phase-two clinical trials in the United States and Europe.
A safe and effective Lyme vaccine would be a boon for public health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hundreds of thousands of people are likely diagnosed with Lyme annually in the United States. Tens of thousands more develop Lyme each year in Europe. Caught early, the disease is usually easy to treat. But not every infected individual displays the hallmark symptom of Lyme—a bull’s-eye rash—and so the disease sometimes goes undetected. Left untreated, the bacteria can cause severe joint and nerve pain, memory problems, dizziness, and heart palpitations.