French biotech company Valneva and Pfizer announced on Monday that the two have launched a clinical trial to test the only candidate for a vaccine to guard against Lyme disease.
If the study is successful, it would be the first time in about 20 years that a vaccine against the disease could be released for public use, Axios reported.
Black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, carry a bacteria which causes Lyme disease.
Ticks have grown in number in recent years due to rising temperatures caused by climate change, researchers say.
Annaliesa Anderson, head of vaccine research at Pfizer, said, “With increasing global rates of Lyme disease, providing a new option for people to help protect themselves from the disease is more important than ever.”
As the Associated Press reported, the first volunteer in the trial, Robert Terwilliger of Williamsburg, Pa, received either the vaccine or a placebo on Monday. The study seeks 6,000 volunteers in Europe and the U.S. for phase 3 trials to enroll volunteers between 5 and 50 years old. The study will take volunteers in areas where the disease is endemic, and volunteers will receive three shots of either a vaccine or a placebo. They will get one booster dose a year after the third dose.
The last vaccine against Lyme disease was discontinued in 2002 because of low demand, the CDC said.
According to the CDC, almost 36,000 confirmed or probable cases of Lyme disease were reported in 2019 in the United States. The CDC estimates that it's possible the actual number of cases rose to as high as 476,000.