Detection of Attenuated, Noninfectious Spirochetes in Borrelia burgdorferi– Infected Mice after Antibiotic Treatment

University of California, Davis, Davis, California, United States
The Journal of Infectious Diseases (Impact Factor: 6). 12/2002; 186(10):1430-7. DOI: 10.1086/345284
Source: PubMed


Xenodiagnosis by ticks was used to determine whether spirochetes persist in mice after 1 month of antibiotic therapy for vectorborne Borrelia burgdorferi infection. Immunofluorescence and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were used to show that spirochetes could be found in Ixodes scapularis ticks feeding on 4 of 10 antibiotic-treated mice up to 3 months after therapy. These spirochetes could not be transmitted to naive mice, and some lacked genes on plasmids correlating with infectivity. By 6 months, antibiotic-treated mice no longer tested positive by xenodiagnosis, and cortisone immunosuppression did not alter this result. Nine months after treatment, low levels of spirochete DNA could be detected by real-time PCR in a subset of antibiotic-treated mice. In contrast to sham-treated mice, antibiotic-treated mice did not have culture or histopathologic evidence of persistent infection. These results provide evidence that noninfectious spirochetes can persist for a limited duration after antibiotics but are not associated with disease in mice.

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    • "Embers et al138 addressed several of the key issues identified by Wormser and Schwartz140 in their 2009 review that focused on studies by Bockenstedt et al,141 Hodzic et al,142 and Straubinger et al,143 all of which documented the persistence of Bb in the tissues of animals despite the antibiotic challenge. "
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    • "Serological data as well as our culture results suggest that initial infections were cleared. Positive PCR signals in two mice 7 days after inoculation and, even more importantly, in one animal 28 days post-inoculation imply the presence of non-culturable spirochaetes in these cases.37–39 It was shown that B. burgdorferi remains localized for >2 days at the site of infection before the organisms start to disseminate.19 "
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