Could white-tailed deer hold the key to treating Lyme disease?

Scientists have discovered that deer may hold the key to Lyme disease resistance, giving hope for those with the debilitating disease.

Progress has been made in the fight against Lyme disease. Researchers at the New England Center of Excellence for Vector Borne Disease (NEWVEC) at the University of Massachusetts have discovered that white-tailed deer are immune to Lyme disease, offering hope for potential cures or prevention strategies. Scientists confirmed what they had already suspected, something in the deer's blood kills the bacteria that causes Lyme. The next step is investigating what the exact substance is. Knowing this could inform ways to protect humans and pets in the future.

Microbiology Professor Stephen Rich, director of the NEWVEC, tells me that "we can learn something about the pharmacology of it, like the drugs that work to ... mimic that thing that's happening inside the white-tailed deer. And if we get that, we're off to the races to having possibly another cure or prevention for Lyme disease."

Currently, antibiotics remain the best option for treating Lyme disease, with early detection and treatment being crucial for favorable outcomes.

The findings were published in the journal Vector-borne and Zoonotic Diseases.

Thumbnail: file photo: National Park Service.