An experimental drug is being tested that sprays poison into people’s skin to protect against Lyme disease.
Cases of tick-borne infection have skyrocketed across the United States in recent decades and nearly 500,000 people are now thought to be infected each year.
The new pill would be taken once every nine months and works by placing a drug that is harmless to humans but deadly to ticks on the skin, causing the ticks to convulse and die before they can transmit the bacteria that causes tick disease. Lyme.
Dr Bobak Azamian, chief executive of the California company developing the treatment, told DailyMail.com: “I think the power of this tablet is that there is nothing like it that targets the root cause of Lyme disease, That’s the trick.”
“What this would do is provide an opportunity for protection for a lot of people, for landscapers, frequent hikers and gardeners.”
An experimental drug that poisons people’s skin is being tested to protect against Lyme disease.
The graph above shows the cases of Lyme disease diagnosed in the US by year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says only a fraction of cases are reported, estimating there are almost 500,000 each year.
The map above shows where most cases are reported, revealing that the disease is most prevalent in northeastern states.
Trials have already shown it to be safe, but it must now be shown to have a protective effect before it can be submitted for approval.
If successful, the team at California-based Tarsus Pharmaceuticals says it could be available in 2026.
Lyme disease vaccines have not been available since 2002, when the Lymerix vaccine was removed from the market.
However, over the past three decades, cases of Lyme disease appear to have more than doubled nationwide, reaching nearly 500,000 per year.
The disease can be treated with antibiotics if caught in the early stages, but figures suggest around 30,000 patients each year do not catch it in time.
This means that many patients can suffer in silence. Bella Hadid, who was diagnosed with Lyme disease in July, said the infection left her with an irregular heartbeat, joint pain and difficulty breathing.
The bacteria behind Lyme disease cause the disease by traveling in the bloodstream from the site of infection to other areas of the body.
In severe cases, it can infect and damage heart valves and nerve cells, causing encephalitis (or inflammation of the brain).
The new pill contains a drug called TP-05, a parasitic agent that paralyzes and kills ticks.
Pfizer is also working on a new vaccine to combat Lyme disease using the same mRNA technology that was used against Covid.
This will require at least three doses to be effective, preliminary research suggests, and possibly a booster each year. It is not expected to be available until 2025.
The drug has already passed Phase 1 trials, showing that it is safe. During these, it was administered to young, healthy adults and caused no adverse reactions.
Ticks are constantly moving north and become active for longer each year thanks to rising temperatures.
It is currently in Phase 2a trials, which will test whether it can kill sterile ticks that bite humans.
The trial will involve 30 participants, each of whom will take the pill and then be bitten by a tick.
These ticks will then be monitored for 30 days to see if they die. A placebo group, which will receive a dummy drug, will also be included.
It is hoped that the drug, because it targets ticks rather than bacteria, may also provide protection against other less common tick-borne diseases, such as the Powassan virus, which can cause encephalitis, or brain inflammation.
As ticks move further north and are active for longer each year thanks to rising temperatures, doctors say there is a growing need to find a way to combat the disease.
It is not yet clear how much the treatment will cost, but it is based on a similar medication given once a month to dogs and cats to prevent flea and tick bites. This costs over $18.99 per dose.
Dr. Azamian said they would probably have the results of this trial by the end of this year, but they will still need to do the phase 2b and 3 trials.
But he is confident that once they have the data, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will approve this treatment for use in humans. This could happen as early as 2026, he told DailyMail.com.