VCU receives $2.5M to develop vaccines against tick-borne illnesses


vcu healthResearchers at the VCU School of Medicine have received a $2.54 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for the development of vaccines to prevent Lyme disease and human granulocytic anaplasmosis, the two most common tick-borne infections in the United States.

The four-year award was granted to a research team co-led by Richard T. Marconi, Ph.D., and Jason Carlyon, Ph.D., professors in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

The Marconi lab previously developed a canine Lyme disease vaccine that entered the U.S. veterinary market in 2016. More recently, the researchers developed a prototype vaccine antigen for anaplasmosis in canines. The vaccine is currently undergoing testing.

“The goal of the NIH funding is to redesign the canine Lyme disease and Anaplasma vaccines for use in humans,” Marconi said.

Lyme disease and anaplasmosis are caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and Anaplasma phagocytophilum, respectively. Both diseases are transmitted to humans and animals through the bite of an infected Ixodes tick (commonly referred to as the blacklegged tick or deer tick). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates over 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year in the U.S. and approximately 100,000 cases in Europe. While approximately 5,700 cases of anaplasmosis are reported each year in the U.S., due to misdiagnosis and underreporting its true incidence is thought to be much higher.

Because of the expanding geographic range of the blacklegged tick, the incidence of Lyme disease and anaplasmosis is increasing. Tick-borne diseases are a growing public health threat through much of North America and Europe.

The new grant, along with funding from the Stephen & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, The National Christian Foundation and existing NIH awards, will support the team’s work to develop a combination Lyme disease/anaplasmosis vaccine.

“The advantage of this approach,” Carlyon said, “is that a single vaccine formulation, as opposed to two separate vaccines, can be used to protect against these potentially debilitating diseases.”

Lyme disease and Anaplasma vaccines for use in humans are not currently available. A vaccine for human Lyme disease called LYMErix, available from 1998 to 2002, was discontinued because of declining sales due to perceived concerns about possible adverse effects.

The generally nondescript clinical manifestations of early-stage Lyme disease and anaplasmosis (rash, fever, headache, chills and muscle aches) means cases often go undiagnosed. In the absence of early intervention, Lyme disease can become a chronic infection with symptoms that persist indefinitely.

“There is an urgent need to develop new preventative strategies, as well as therapeutics and diagnostics, for these important diseases,” said Marconi, who developed a screening tool in 2017 to detect Lyme disease in humans. “The research being conducted by our laboratories occupies an important niche. The development of effective vaccines for tick-borne diseases is considered a high priority by the NIH and the CDC.”



uva basketball team of destiny

Team of Destiny: Inside UVA Basketball's improbable run

Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.

augusta free press

Subscribe

Augusta Free Press content is available for free, as it has been since 2002, save for a disastrous one-month experiment at putting some content behind a pay wall back in 2009. (We won’t ever try that again. Almost killed us!) That said, it’s free to read, but it still costs us money to produce. The site is updated several times a day, every day, 365 days a year, 366 days on the leap year. (Stuff still happens on Christmas Day, is what we’re saying there.) AFP does well in drawing advertisers, but who couldn’t use an additional source of revenue? From time to time, readers ask us how they can support us, and we usually say, keep reading. Now we’re saying, you can drop us a few bucks, if you’re so inclined.

 
augusta free press
augusta free press news