In 1998, the LYMErix vaccine was rolled out by SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline). It was a three-part vaccine that was discovered to be about 76% effective in opposition to Borrelia burgdorferi, a corkscrew-shaped spirochete bacterium that causes Lyme illness. It was meant for folks 15 to 70 years outdated residing or working in areas with excessive charges of Lyme illness.
The LYMErix vaccine precipitated the immune system to generate antibodies in opposition to B. burgdorferi—particularly, in opposition to a protein on the outer floor of the micro organism referred to as outer floor protein A (OspA). These Lyme-killing antibodies labored in a singular method: When a tick bit a vaccinated individual, it ingested the individual’s blood and antibodies, which traveled into the tick’s intestine, the place the antibodies destroyed the micro organism earlier than it ever entered the human physique.
So what was the issue? Quickly after the vaccine was launched, stories started trickling in about fairly intense unintended effects, together with arthritis, neurologic signs, and cognitive points. And in 1999, a class action lawsuit was filed in opposition to SmithKline Beecham (SKB) by 121 individuals who had obtained the vaccine. They claimed that SKB knew and didn’t adequately warn docs and sufferers that sure folks could also be genetically predisposed to creating autoimmune arthritis in response to the vaccine, and so they needed SKB to replace the vaccine’s security warnings to say arthritis.
Lyme illness itself could cause arthritis, so the claims about LYMErix raised numerous questions. Whereas the vaccine didn’t comprise reside micro organism, and thus couldn’t cause Lyme illness, folks started to fret about its method to producing antibodies in opposition to OspA. Why? Round this similar time, scientists found that people with a certain genetic variant (HLA type DR4+) had been extra more likely to develop arthritis after getting Lyme illness. They had been additionally extra more likely to generate autoantibodies (antibodies that mistakenly goal your individual cells) in response to OspA. Due to this Lyme-OspA-autoimmunity connection, consultants thought-about the likelihood that LYMErix may additionally trigger arthritis in sufferers with the DR4+ variant.
However in 2001, an FDA advisory panel concluded that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support claims that LYMErix precipitated antagonistic occasions, together with arthritis. By that point, 1.four million doses of the vaccine had been distributed and the Vaccine Adversarial Occasions Reporting System (VAERS) database included solely 59 stories of arthritis related to the vaccine—a quantity that consultants stated was consistent with the charges of arthritis in unvaccinated people. Even so, SKB pulled the vaccine from the market in 2002, citing low demand ensuing from the entire unfavorable media protection attributable to the lawsuits.
To at the present time, the security of LYMErix is debated. In accordance with some, the downfall of LYMErix represents the lack of a robust device for Lyme illness prevention. However different medical consultants aren’t so positive the vaccine was utterly with out fault or threat, particularly since extra definitive long-term safety studies were halted when the vaccine was pulled off the market. In his new e-book Chronic: The Hidden Cause of the Autoimmune Pandemic and How to Get Healthy Again, Steven Phillips, M.D., says he continues to listen to from sufferers who say they nonetheless haven’t recovered from their LYMErix accidents practically 20 years later. (Clearly, Lyme illness is an advanced matter.)