Finally, a Shot to Prevent Lyme Disease Could Be on Its Way
Lyme-carrying ticks are a bigger threat than ever. A promising new antibody treatment looks to stop infection—even after a tick bite.
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Bart Yasso was never more himself than when he was on a long run. As the chief running officer of Runner’s World magazine, he generally logged about 80 miles per week. He regularly trained for marathons and had finished two Ironmans, taking comfort in the distances he traveled. That all changed one cool April day in 1990.
After running a 50-mile ultramarathon around Lake Waramaug in Connecticut, Yasso lay down in a grassy field to recuperate before his drive back to Pennsylvania. A week later, he started feeling sick, unusually fatigued, and achy. He had a fever. On his neck, he found a red rash in the shape of a bull’s-eye. Yasso had never seen anything like it, and he had no idea what it was.
“I went through a series of doctors, and no one could figure out why I was just not feeling well,” Yasso recalls. “I’d try to run every once in a while, but it was awful.”
Awareness around Lyme disease was limited back then. It was a regional infection, confined mostly to the Northeast and near the Great Lakes. While his fever and rash eventually abated, Yasso lived with aching joints for weeks, going to doctor after doctor, trying to figure out what was wrong. It wasn’t until three months later that he was finally diagnosed with Lyme.
Unfortunately for Yasso, the experience was merely the prologue for what was to come, as he contracted Lyme disease another three times over the next 30 years. As a result, he experiences swelling and pain in his joints. “To have swollen joints before you even head out the door on your run is not good,” he says. “I want to run. I try to run. Most days I just can’t.”
Lyme is treatable, and most people who are infected recover after a month of antibiotics if the disease is caught early. But the number of cases has risen sharply over the past decade, and scientists are now directing their efforts toward novel therapies. The goal is to prevent infection even after a tick bite occurs—and possibly crush Lyme disease as we know it.