Epidemiology and Infection

Editorial Review

The Lyme vaccine: a cautionary tale

L. E. NIGROVIC a1c1 and K. M. THOMPSON a2a3
a1 Division of Emergency Medicine, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, MA, USA
a2 Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, MA, USA
a3 Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA

Article author query
nigrovic le   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
thompson km   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


People living in endemic areas acquire Lyme disease from the bite of an infected tick. This infection, when diagnosed and treated early in its course, usually responds well to antibiotic therapy. A minority of patients develops more serious disease, particularly after a delay in diagnosis or therapy, and sometimes chronic neurological, cardiac, or rheumatological manifestations. In 1998, the FDA approved a new recombinant Lyme vaccine, LYMErix™, which reduced new infections in vaccinated adults by nearly 80%. Just 3 years later, the manufacturer voluntarily withdrew its product from the market amidst media coverage, fears of vaccine side-effects, and declining sales. This paper reviews these events in detail and focuses on the public communication of risks and benefits of the Lyme vaccine and important lessons learned.

(Accepted June 5 2006)
(Published Online August 8 2006)

c1 Division of Emergency Medicine, 300 Longwood Avenue, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, MA 02115, USA. (Email: lise.nigrovic@childrens.harvard.edu)