More than 30,000 people in the United States alone contract Lyme disease from tick bites every year, but a German research lab says it has developed a special gel—still in medical trials—that can help reduce the chances of contracting Lyme disease after exposure.
Colloquially named for the town in Connecticut where the disease was first identified in 1975, tick-borne Borreliosis infections are not limited to New England. Outdoor recreational enthusiasts from Virginia to Maine along the East Coast, in the wooded North-Central states like Wisconsin and Minnesota, and even now along the West Coast—particularly in Northern California—all are in danger of contracting Lyme disease if bitten by a infected deer tick.
There is no known cure for Lyme disease, the symptoms of which range form pain and swelling of the joints to facial paralysis and heart palpitations.
Those infected often—but don’t always—develop a bullseye-shaped rash at the bite point. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a tick must be attached to a person for 24 to 36 hours to pass the bacteria into their host’s bloodstream.
“If the gel is applied immediately to the bite after the tick has been removed and one does not wait for any potential symptoms to show, Lyme borreliosis could be prevented,” says Dr Jens Knauer, the project manager the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology. “This is because during the ﬁrst few days, the bacteria stay right around the spot where the tick bite occurred.”
Knauer says that azithromycin, the gel’s active ingredient, is highly effective against the borrelia bacteria, and kills it locally in the skin.
“This gel, however, cannot be used to treat an established infection; it is suitable only for prophylaxis,“ adds Dr. Knauer.
If the human clinical trials are successful, the Lyme-fighting antibiotic gel should be on the market soon.