A protein found in the saliva of ticks may spur the development of a new Lyme disease vaccine. Details of the study led by scientists at Yale University were published online today in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.
During the transmission of the disease the Lyme bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorferi moves through the tick and is coated with a salivary protein known as Salp15. Yale researchers injected Salp15 into healthy mice and found that it significantly protected them from being infected. When combined with outer surface proteins of B. burgdorferi, the protection was even greater.
A Lyme vaccine was removed from the market in 2002 and to date no other antigen has been tested in phase III clinical trials.
We believe that it is likely that many arthropod-borne infection agents of medical importance use vector proteins as they move to the mammalian host. If so, then this paradigm, described with the Lyme disease agent, is likely to be applicable to these illnesses. Currently, we are working to determine if this strategy is likely to be important for West Nile virus infection, dengue fever, and malaria, among other diseases.