Lyme borreliosis, the most common tick-borne
disease in both North America and Europe, is acquired through the bite of certain tick species in the genus Ixodes. The number of Ixodes ticks in the environment can be reduced by relatively simple interventions such as removing leaf litter and brush, which increases exposure of the tick to sun and air and takes advantage of the tick’s vulnerability to desiccation, or by application of acaricides to property. Deer elimination or exclusion, application of topical acaricides to mice or deer, and application of systemic acaricides to deer are more complex approaches. However, none of these methods for reducing tick numbers, nor any of the recommended personal prevention measures, such as reducing the amount of exposed skin, use of tick repellents on exposed skin or clothing, and frequent tick checks to remove attached ticks expeditiously, has been demonstrated to decrease significantly the incidence of
Lyme borreliosis in humans. Only two strategies have been shown to do so. A recombinant outer surface protein A (OspA) vaccine was approximately 80% effective in clinical trials in the United States, and a single 200 mg dose of doxycycline given within 72 hours of an I. scapularis tick bite, was shown to be 87% effective. The OspA vaccine is no longer manufactured due to poor sales. Consequently, single-dose doxycycline prophylaxis is rapidly gaining acceptance in the United States. Limiting single-dose doxycycline to just the highest risk tick bites can be accomplished if the health care provider has learned to differentiate engorged from unengorged I. scapularis ticks. Limitations of single-dose doxycycline prophylaxis are that the majority of patients with
Lyme borreliosis do not recall a tick bite, and that there is no evidence that other Ixodes transmitted infections, such as human granulocytic ehrlichiosis, would be prevented. A safe, effective, inexpensive and well-accepted vaccine would be welcome.