New England would love a vaccine against Lyme disease. How about a vaccine against all tick-borne diseases – one that targets the tick itself, not the virus or pathogen it accidentally spits into our bloodstream?
That’s the idea behind an mRNA vaccine under development. Gizmodo has an excellent overview story – you can read it here.
The vaccine is supposed to work by immunizing the body to the saliva of a disease-carrying tick. To do this, the vaccine uses a mRNA-based delivery system. … The mRNA delivers instructions to cells for producing several of the antigens (proteins) found in tick spit that are the most likely to get the immune system’s attention. These antigens will then goad immune cells into a short-lived fight, one that will leave a lasting memory.
Once a tick tries to bite a vaccinated person, the hope is that its saliva will set off an almost immediate immune reaction. This reaction should then make it harder for the tick to naturally finish its meal, which can take up to three days, as well as alert the human to the presence of an ongoing blood theft so that they can safely pull the tick off…. The immune reaction would be most plainly felt as noticeable inflammation and redness at the bite site, increasing the chance that the tick will be removed.
It’s only at the guinea pig stage right now, but there’s hope!