New Ointment to Prevent Lyme Disease?

People may soon be able to purchase a topical antibiotic ointment that, in animal studies, has shown to prevent Lyme disease when applied directly to the tick bite.

Most people are familiar with the term Lyme disease, but many do not know exactly what it is. Lyme disease develops because of an infection that occurs due to a tick bite from a tick that is directly infected with the bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi. Generally, Lyme disease can easily be cured if it is treated soon after the infection develops. If the infection is not noticed right away and the disease is able to develop and progress for a long period of time however, the treatments and symptoms can become highly problematic due to the fact that not only the skin, but the joints, nervous system, and heart can all be compromised.

Ticks are part of the arachnid family and are therefore are directly related to spiders, mites, and chiggers. The deer tick is the most common Lyme disease carrier within all of North America. Deer ticks follow a life cycle of four developmental stages: eggs, larva, nymph, and adult. When the egg hatches, a larval with 6-legs is developed and is as small as a single speck of black pepper. This form is most commonly referred to as a seed tick. After this larva feeds off of a single host, it develops into a larger nymph of 8-legs which lacks any form of sexual differentiation. After feeding off of another host, this nymph develops into the adult form which is then either male or female. The female is then needed to require blood in order to lay more eggs and complete the cycle of development.

When someone is bitten by a Lyme disease carrying tick, a red, bulls-eye type rash is the most common initial sign. This is then followed by muscle tenderness and joint pain which develops with only a few days after or sometimes several weeks after the bite itself. A blood test for Lyme disease can then show if the person indeed has the disease, but often times false-negatives occur until nearly 6 weeks after the tick bite. However, if someone is believed to have Lyme disease, they will be put on an antibiotic therapy, usually orally, but possibly intravenously, for a number of weeks. In the year 2009 alone, there were at least 30,000 reported cases of Lyme disease with at least 8,500 more cases that were pending probable diagnosis.

Among the Lyme disease cases that occurred in 2009, about 95% of them were reports from only 12 states: Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Wisconsin, Delaware, Minnesota, Maine, New Hampshire, and Virginia.

While the incidences of Lyme disease are rather high, a new treatment for a suspected tick bite may be about to take affect. A research team from Leipzig, Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology, recently reported within the Antimicrobial Chemotherapy Journal their promising findings for a topical treatment containing the antibiotic azithromycin which has been shown to prevent Lyme disease, at least in animal studies.

The research team used experimental mice and exposed them to bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi which is found in Lyme disease through their skin either through tick bites themselves or via need injections. In all cases, Lyme disease was prevented by applying the topical ointment. Furthermore, the topical antibiotic was also protective for up to 3 days after exposure to the bacteria in Lyme disease.

The study shows tremendous promise and is currently in phase 3 for human trials.


Evaluation of the preventive capacities of a topically applied azithromycin formulation against Lyme borreliosis in a murine model. J. Antimicrobial. Chemotherapy. 2011. Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology, Cell Technology.

Boyer, T. 2011. New Antibiotic Ointment Prevents Lyme Disease from Tick Bites.

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