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Researchers move forward with a shot to prevent Lyme disease

(WKOW) - Lyme disease cripples hundreds of people in Wisconsin each year and now researchers are working on a shot to prevent the problem.

The Badger State is a hot spot for the tick-borne disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average number of cases has more than doubled over the last decade. In 2018, Wisconsin saw 1,121 cases.

It's a problem that Alicia Cashman knows all too well.

"It destroys your life," she said. " It makes life unbearable."

She said it started with her dog and then moved to her husband.

"All of a sudden he was limping and had to crawl up the stairs."

Finally, Alicia was diagnosed with Lyme disease.

"I would walk into a room and forget why I was there," she said.

Now researchers are looking for a way to prevent the spread of Lyme disease with medicine.

"You give the shot right at the beginning of the season," said Dr. Mark Klempner, a researcher at MassBiologics, University of Massachusetts Medical School. "Take the shot sometime in March or April and then we are anticipating that it would work for eight months."

He said it's the same general idea used in protecting babies from certain viral infections.

"We use an immune molecule called an anti-body that would provide immediate immunity with very little or no side-effects."

After four years of development, Dr. Klempner said things are moving forward. They are about to begin first in human testing to show it's safe and learn how long it will last in the bloodstream.

He said he is well aware of a possible challenge in informing people of the difference between this shot and one called Lymrix, taken off the market years ago due to fears of vaccine side-effects and declining sales.

"Lymrix was a vaccine, this is quite different," said the doctor. "Instead of a bacterial protein, this is a human protein that is in the protective molecule."

The shot is still a few years away from being released to the public, but Dr. JoAnne Kriege at SSM Health in Madison says there are some things you can do to protect your family now.

-Stay to the center of trails. Don't go into the brush.
-Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outside.
-Use a repellant with DEET.
-Check for ticks right after outdoor activities.

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As for Cashman, while the preventative shot comes a little too late, she said she and her husband are doing well now and has found her passion as she continues to recover. Lyme disease education.

She runs a monthly support group in Wisconsin for people with questions. Each meeting, the group talks about the struggles and successes they've had with the diagnosis.

During the month of February, several businesses across the country are coming together to raise money for Lyme disease research for a cure.

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