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Moderna developing mRNA vaccine for Lyme disease

A Lyme disease vaccine could be on its way soon, according to pharmaceutical company Moderna

The company has announced two new mRNA vaccines in development that could prevent Lyme disease, marking the "first application of its mRNA technology to bacterial pathogens." The technology was used in creating the COVID-19 vaccine. Moderna also announced vaccine development plans for norovirus and RSV, which have both been spreading rapidly.

"Untreated, Lyme disease can be very serious," emergency physician and George Washington University professor Leana Wen told Axios. "Some people develop debilitating symptoms that really impact their lives." The disease comes from tick bites and can cause fever, chills, joint pain, and rashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If left untreated, the symptoms can be more severe including heart palpitations, arthritis, and facial palsy. 

There has only been one human Lyme disease vaccine that was ever available on the market and it was pulled in 2002 because "negative press coverage and limited awareness of the benefits of the vaccine decreased consumer demand for the vaccine," according to a 2007 study. However, there are approximately 120,000 reported cases of Lyme reported each year in the U.S. and Europe, and that number is rising due to climate change, per Axios.

Pfizer and its partner company Valneva also have a Lyme disease vaccine in the works that has shown promise, with the company saying it could get approved as early as 2025. It is still good practice to wear long sleeves and use insect repellant to prevent tick bites in the first place, but "after years of relying on such preventive steps, an age of advanced drugs and vaccines could be nigh," Axios writes.