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Two experimental vaccines against Lyme disease have been tested in thousands of patients living in areas where the illness is common, and new results suggest that each is quite effective in recipients who receive three shots.

Lyme disease is caused by a type of bacteria transmitted by the bite of certain ticks. The infection causes a characteristic rash with fever and headache, but may also spread via the bloodstream to affect the joints, heart or nervous system. Victims who don't receive treatment with an antibiotic sometimes develop arthritis, disturbances of mental function or pain caused by nerve damage.

The vaccine makers -- Pasteur Merieux Connaught and SmithKline Beecham -- say they will apply for licensing from the Food and Drug Administration later this year.

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