The Drug That Could Eradicate Lyme Disease

The rare instances in which humanity has managed to eradicate a disease are among its great achievements. Now, Lyme disease could add to that list.

All this, thanks to the discovery made by scientists from Northeastern University in Boston published in the Cell medium of a chemical that is deadly for the bacteria that causes this disease but harmless for animals.

Lyme disease, a growing problem
Lyme disease was first described in 1883 and traditionally maintained a stable incidence, until global warming began to cause its spread. Since then, their presence began a rise in Europe, North America and Asia that continues to this day.

This growth is explained because Lyme disease is a zoonosis caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, whose reservoir is found in wild mice and is transmitted through the ticks that parasitize them. Thus, climate change has favored the proliferation of these ticks, which are now found in habitats closer to humans.

Its main symptoms are an expansive rash and a flu-like picture. If left untreated, it can cause permanent sequelae, the most prominent of which is Lyme arthritis.

A drug for pigs
The authors of this research found that a substance called hygromycin A , originally tested as a drug for pigs but discarded because of its low efficacy, has little effect on most bacteria. The exception, however, seems to be the burgdorferi.

The advantage that this substance offers over conventional treatments, based on antibiotics such as doxycycline, is that unlike these it does not cause any harm to animals, so it does not produce side effects such as diarrhea, and it is also very difficult to the bacterium develops resistance to hygromycin A.

This is because burgdorferi belongs to a class of bacteria called spirochetes , known to have a characteristic helix shape that allows them to ‘burrow’ in infected tissues.

These bacteria feed on a number of essential nutrients chemically very similar to hygromycin . Therefore, a mutation that blocks this drug would lead to starvation of the bacteria.

Potential use
The intention of the researchers is to resume successful field trials that were carried out a decade ago with doxycycline in which antibiotic baits were placed within the reach of the mice, managing to end local outbreaks. However, it was feared that this tactic would generate widespread resistance to doxycycline.

Now, the idea is to carry out an assay with the same characteristics using hygromycin instead of doxycycline. According to the authors, in this way the disease could be eradicated from areas or even entire countries.

At the same time, many scientists are working on the development of a vaccine against this disease, as its incidence is expected to continue to increase in humans.

On the other hand, the researchers believe that hygromycin could work in a similar way against other spirochete bacteria, such as the one that causes syphilis (which, in addition, has been showing an increasing tolerance to antibiotics), therefore The possibility of initiating investigations in this regard is also envisaged.