Since 2002, there’s been no approved vaccine in the United States against Lyme disease in humans, though incidents of the disease are apparently increasing.
A Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine researcher is working to change that in the wake of his work on a vaccine against the illness in dogs that has recently gone on the market.
He’s Richard T. Marconi, a professor of microbiology and immunology.
Marconi says he uses a chimeritope approach in developing the vaccine. It involves engineering a “chimeric” protein, which is a combination of pertinent pieces of proteins, to make it effective against more variants of the bacteria than is possible in working with just one protein.
The need is there: Lyme disease, which is spread through a tick bite, is now estimated to effect up to 300,000 Americans each year. It occurs most frequently in the Northeast and the upper Midwest, and Virginia is one of the 14 states that account for 96 percent of confirmed Lyme disease cases, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The canine vaccine, VANGUARD crLyme, kills the bacteria that causes the disease and also stimulates an immune response to inhibit transmission from tick to dog. Marconi is a co-developer of the product, which has been in development since 2005 and is licensed to manufacturer Zoetis through the VCU Innovation Gateway.
The next step for Marconi is working on adapting the vaccine and developing new diagnostic tests for the disease. Marconi says the transition from canine to human vaccine is relatively easy and may take less than two years to develop.
“The ability to redesign for humans is relatively simple,” he says.
You can see his detailed discussion of his work at a CDC-sponsored discussion of Lyme disease and vaccine that took place in August.
Not all ticks carry the bacteria that causes the disease; just deer ticks (aka the blacklegged tick), a tiny bloodsucker that in its nymph phase is about as big as a poppy seed. Adults may be the size of an apple seed. It’s usually nymphs that transmit the disease in humans. Ticks
have to be on you a day and a half to two days to transmit the bacteria, so you need to check yourself thoroughly after being in the woods or other areas they may infest.
Symptoms within a few days to a month after infection include development of a rash around the site of the bite, and flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, achy muscles, headaches and swollen lymph nodes. It may later lead to arthritis, palsy, severe headaches and neck stiffness, nerve pain, spinal cord and brain inflammation and may be life-threatening.
Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics.
The previous vaccine was pulled from the market for a number of factors. You can learn more about that in that in the CDC forum.
A vaccine may find a more favorable market now, since the incidents of the disease have increased 28 percent from 2005 to 2013, and people in the most-populated area of the nation are at risk. Lyme is also a problem in Europe and Canada.
“The timing could not be better” for developing human vaccines, according to Marconi.
Still time to Rock the Top Docs
Voting continues through Feb. 15 to select the best of Richmond’s medical community in the 2016 Top Docs survey.
It’s a chance for doctors and physicians to select the best of the best: Which of their peers in various specialty areas would they use themselves or recommend to a family member or close friend?
It’s an online survey, and it’s quick and easy to participate. Are you a Richmond-area physician, psychologist, optometrist or chiropractor, but didn’t get an invitation to participate? Contact me at email@example.com and I’ll get the information to you on how to vote.
Winners will be featured in our April issue.
Take the plunge
Embrace the chill at RVA Plunge Winter Fest on Feb. 27 to help local Special Olympics Virginia athletes.
The fundraiser is set for noon to 4 p.m. at The Shops at Willow Lawn, followed with an after-party at 4 p.m. at American Taproom.
There’s a parade of costumes at 2 p.m., and the “plunge” itself begins at 2:30 p.m. Other events include ice sculptures, an inflatable slide and a family-friendly scavenger hunt.
Learn more or register at 726-3023 or polarplunge.com.
New Orthopedic Surgery chair at VCU
The Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the VCU School of Medicine has a new chair.
Dr. Stephen Kates has assumed the post. He is an expert on “geriatric fractures and infections associated with total hip replacement,” according to VCU School of Medicine Dean Jerome F. Strauss III, in a release. Kates succeeds Dr. Robert S. Adelaar.
There’s nothing cuter than a newborn baby, right?
Except maybe a newborn in a bright red, handmade cap.
Bon Secours will have the infants in its care adorned in red at St. Mary’s Hospital, St. Francis Hospital and at Memorial Regional on Friday to mark National Wear Red Day, an annual American Red Cross event to raise women’s heart health awareness. February is American Heart Month.
The red cap campaign is a cute way to get out a serious message: Heart disease and stroke account for one in three women’s deaths, though they are 80 percent preventable, according to goredforwomen.
Women and Wellness Forum
Hilderbrand is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed in May 2014 and has since
created a website, Mamastrong.net, for breast cancer survivors to share their stories. She’s the author of 16 bestsellers. Her most recent title is “Winter Stroll.”
The event is at noon at the Jefferson, 101 W. Franklin St. It will be preceded with a reception and followed by a book signing. The 21st annual event benefits women’s cancer research at VCU Massey Cancer Center. Seats in the ballroom are sold out, but seats remain in the Empire Room, where a simulcast will air. Tickets are $125.
For reservations or information, contact Stephanie Jenks at 827-0642, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Full Disclosure: Richmond magazine is the print sponsor for the event.