Researchers from Yale University have discovered a protein that can help protect individuals from infection with the tick-borne spirochete that causes Lyme disease. The findings have been reported in the journal PLOS Pathogens.
Lyme disease is rare in India. When it does occur, it is typically found within northern regions and, for the most part, limited to rural environments. Lyme disease is spread by tick bites — the main reason behind its higher prevalence in rural regions. These bites may transmit a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi which is responsible for development of the disease.
If caught quickly, the disease can be treated with orally-administered antibiotics. Doxycycline, amoxicillin or cefuroxime are all antibiotics commonly used for Lyme disease in its early stages. Should rural clinics be equipped with both diagnostic capacities and a supply of these medications, treatment outcomes would be positive.
As with many diseases, the lack of healthcare infrastructure typical of rural regions often hinders treatment capacity. For many, lack of knowledge regarding Lyme disease can allow for infections to go all but undiagnosed unless severe symptoms occur. In many areas capacity for treatment or diagnosis are all but non-existent.
Early stage symptoms of Lyme disease are much like those of the flu. For this reason the disease is often misdiagnosed, or completely ignored. In some cases, there is one hallmark symptom that can give the disease away — a rash in the shape of a bullseye.
The study involved the expression of more than 1,000 human genes in yeast and analyzed their interactions with 36 samples of the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease. They found that one protein, Peptidoglycan Recognition Protein 1 (PGLYRP1), acts like an early warning signal to the immune system when exposed to the bacteria.
They concluded that stimulation of a person’s capacity to produce this protein could act as a preventative measure against the disease. However, such a preventative measure may only find traction in areas of North America where the disease is common.
In India the disease is less of an issue due to its scarcity. However, for those that are affected, this often means their likelihood of being treated is minimal due to a lack of prioritisation of the disease. As Lyme disease is both regional, and, for the most part, limited to rural regions, it is unlikely that a mass rollout of preventative treatments will occur.