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Genetic Engineering Raises Hope for Lyme Disease Vaccine
Date:4/5/2010

Researcher describes finding as a theory that still needs testing

MONDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- In an effort to combat Lyme disease, researchers have found that tick-borne transmission might be preventable by deactivating a key gene in the bacteria that enables infection.

Though to date the strategy has been tested solely in mice, theoretically the discovery could lead toward development of a vaccine that reduces the risk for infection.

"Certain genes are activated by the bacteria that causes Lyme disease during tick feeding, and for the first time we found the one that is absolutely necessary to transmit infection," said the study's lead author, Robert D. Gilmore Jr., a research microbiologist and head of the molecular and cellular microbiology lab in the bacterial diseases branch at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Fort Collins, Colo.

Their findings are published in the April 5-9 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lyme disease is transmitted by the bite of a black-legged tick infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, according to the CDC. If caught early, the agency notes, a regimen of antibiotics can successfully tackle the disease in most cases. But if symptoms -- which include fever, headache, chills, a rash, muscle and joint aches and fatigue -- are not swiftly diagnosed and treatment started, Lyme disease can move across a person's joints, heart and nervous system.

In some instances, the ensuing infectious spread can provoke a host of problems, including severe joint pain and swelling, stiffness, heart palpitations, dizziness and a broad range of neurological issues. The exact mechanism underlying such long-term complications remains unclear, but some research has suggested that they might be the result of a compromised autoimmune response.

To cut Lyme disease off at the pass, Gilmore and his t
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