EU funds new research into tick-transmitted diseases

May 24, 2005

Brussels, 23 May 2005

The European Commission is providing 1.4 million euro over two years to a new Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) project into a severe, yet often insufficiently diagnosed, tick-transmitted disease - Lyme borreliosis.

The disease is the most common tick-borne infection in Europe and North America. Caused by the Borrelia bacterium, it triggers neurological abnormalities, cardiac disorders and a delayed onset of arthritis in carriers.

As the project partners from Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Sweden explain, in Europe the incidence is highest in countries such as Slovenia and Austria (more than 100/100,000), but also in countries such as Germany, France and Sweden, where the incidence (16 to 69/100,000) is much higher than in the US.

Currently prevention relies mainly on avoiding tick bites, and there is no registered vaccine against the disease in either the EU or the US. The BOVAC project is therefore targeting an important requirement within the global healthcare industry.

The main goal of the project is the identification of vaccine candidates that could be used to develop a prophylactive vaccine against Lyme borreliosis. The partners will also seek to identify novel diagnostic markers so as to enable the early and reliable diagnosis of the disease and allow for optimum treatment of patients. Another expected outcome of the project is the development of software for the analysis of genomic sequence information.

'The disease is a multi-system disorder, which can affect a complex range of tissues including skin, musculoskeletal system, heart nervous system, and to a lesser extent, the eyes, kidneys and liver,' explain the project partners. 'The illness is caused by a spirochete, which is transmitted during the blood feeding of ticks of the genus Ixodes.'

'The Lyme borreliosis in Europe and the US involves several different bacterial genospecies of Borrelia, thus complicating the search for antigens that will cross-protect against the various forms of the pathogen,' adds the Austrian biotech company, Intercell, the project coordinator.

The project partners will provide expertise and technologies in genome sequencing, infectious disease models and epidemiological studies.

For further information about BOVAC please visit:
http://www.bovac.org

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities
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