Thursday, July 23, 2009

I don't know why humans don't get vaccinated against Lyme disease.

Dizzy and I were up and out early this morning, for his annual veterinary check-up. Dr. Sarah said he looked "great for an old guy," tested him for heartworm and Lyme disease, cleaned his ears, checked his teeth, looked carefully at what seems to be a lipoma on his chest -- and gave him his annual vaccines against Lyme disease and leptospirosis. Those vaccines are important for dogs that run off-leash in this part of the country, or anywhere they're likely to encounter deer.

Several members of my own family have had Lyme disease over the years, and this morning I'm wondering -- once again -- why there is no human vaccine against the illness.

Relatively speaking, Lyme disease is rampant in New England -- or more precisely, from Maine to Delaware, and in Wisconsin, too (though not, mysteriously, in Michigan). If caught early it's very treatable, but it can have bad longterm effects in a small but significant percentage of victims: muscle and joint pain, chronic fatigue, cognitive defects.

An attempt to introduce a human vaccine about ten years ago wasn't successful; the vaccine had some bad side effects, and the demand was never high enough to make its production worthwhile. But I don't understand why, if they've been able to develop a vaccine that is safe and effective for an 80-pound dog, they can't figure out suitable dosage for a human.

Dizzy, looking good for an old guy.


Karen Olson said...

Have you ever read Amy Tan's book Opposite of Fate? She talks in that about her bout of Lyme disease and how it went untreated and undiagnosed for ages, with awful results.

We're very aware of Lyme disease here in CT, and since we just saw a couple deer in the back yard a few weeks ago, we always check for ticks.

norby said...

It's much more likely that a dog is going to get a tick than a human is, and ideally, humans should be intelligent enough to know that they should check themselves for parasites after spending time outside. Dogs can't, it's up to their owners to do it, and that rarely happens, plus it's easy to miss ticks on an animal.

It's always much more difficult to get vaccines and meds for humans-the testing and approval procedures are more complicated and long term and naturally, human testing is extremely regulated.

Anonymous said...

I had Lyme disease and it took German doctors almost a year to figure it out. It wasn't pretty and I'd sure as hell get vaccinated, if possible.

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Karen Olson said...

In response to Norby: I know A LOT of people who've gotten Lyme disease. Granted, I live in CT, where it started, but it's hard to find those little suckers since they're so damn small. On my 40th birthday, I was tested for Lyme disease and while the test came up negative, there are a lot of false negatives, I ended up taking horse pill sized antibiotics for three weeks "just in case."