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VCU School of Medicine professor’s research foundational for Lyme disease vaccine for dogs

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Virginia Commonwealth University professor has helped develop an innovative vaccine for dogs that helps protect against the diverse bacterial strains that cause canine Lyme disease.

The vaccine, which is designed to help prevent dogs from contracting Lyme disease, stimulates immune responses that help inhibit transmission of the Lyme disease bacteria from ticks to dogs and kill the bacteria that cause the disease. The unique design of the vaccine suggests it may be the most effective product of its kind on the market.  

“If not diagnosed and treated early, Lyme disease can potentially be a lethal infection,” said vaccine co-developer Richard T. Marconi, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at the VCU School of Medicine. “The best approach to minimizing disease in canines as well as in humans is to block infection in the first place.”

The vaccine aids in the prevention of clinical Lyme disease and subclinical arthritis with Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the causative agent of Lyme disease in dogs.

We should see it in veterinary offices very soon.

VANGUARD® crLyme is developed, manufactured and distributed by Zoetis, which is the world’s largest producer of medicine and vaccines for companion animals. Marconi has been developing the vaccine in his lab at VCU since 2005 and it was exclusively licensed by VCU Innovation Gateway to Zoetis for use in dogs in 2011. It was licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Jan. 6 and will be available to veterinarians shortly. “We should see it in veterinary offices very soon,” Marconi said.

According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, one in every 16 dogs tested will receive a positive diagnosis of Lyme disease. Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include arthritis, lameness and cardiac complications. “It is a serious disease that we need better preventative strategies for,” Marconi said.

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the vast majority of cases occurring in the Northeast and upper Midwest. Fourteen states, including Virginia, account for more than 96 percent of reported cases.

Marconi’s current research focus is now on developing a human Lyme disease vaccine and new diagnostic tests for Lyme disease. “The regions of the U.S. where Lyme disease is most prevalent coincide with the most populated regions of the country,” he said. “There is a pressing need for developing our vaccine for use in humans.”

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 225 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Seventy-nine of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. The only academic medical center and Level I trauma center in the region, VCU Health comprises five health sciences schools (Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy), VCU Medical Center, Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, VCU Massey Cancer Center and Virginia Premier. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.

Richard Marconi, Ph.D.
Richard Marconi, Ph.D.