Ned is lucky because he’s a dog.
At the MSPCA Angell Animal Medical Center, dogs are regularly vaccinated against Lyme. Ned’s owner, Joe Turchin, lives in Falmouth. Ticks are bad there and Lyme is prevalent.
Turchin’s glad he can protect his dog. But he wishes there were a human vaccine, too.
“You know, if there were a vaccine,” Turchin says, “our doctors would be suggesting it to us, certainly for those of us on the Cape and the islands. Because it’s a horrendous plague!”
Actually, modern science has given us a human vaccine against Lyme disease.
Too bad we don’t use it.
“Lyme disease is the only infection I know of where we have a safe and effective vaccine, but it’s not available to the public,” says Dr. Allen Steere, the physician who uncovered the disease. Steere was 33 years old back in 1975 when he was sent to the Connecticut town of Lyme to look into a mysterious cluster of kids who had gotten arthritis.
“Four or five months into the investigation, we came to suspect that ticks may be involved,” Steere said of his team’s work. They had found a previously unknown disease, and ever since, Lyme has been Steere’s life’s work.
After the discovery, he and other scientists first isolated the spiral-shaped bacterium that causes Lyme disease, and then they looked for ways to make people immune to it. Today, Steere’s laboratory is at Massachusetts General Hospital. He says finding a biological pathway to vaccinate against Lyme was a major milestone.
“Lyme disease was epidemic in certain locations, particularly in the northeastern United States,” Steere says. “So here was the possibility of really changing that.”