Caister Academic Press

Lyme Disease Pathogenesis

Jenifer Coburn, Brandon Garcia, Linden T. Hu, Mollie W. Jewett, Peter Kraiczy, Steven J. Norris and Jon Skare
from: Lyme Disease and Relapsing Fever Spirochetes: Genomics, Molecular Biology, Host Interactions and Disease Pathogenesis (Edited by: Justin D. Radolf and D. Scott Samuels). Caister Academic Press, U.K. (2021) Pages: 369-414.


Open-access article
Lyme disease Borrelia are obligately parasitic, tick-transmitted, invasive, persistent bacterial pathogens that cause disease in humans and non-reservoir vertebrates primarily through the induction of inflammation. During transmission from the infected tick, the bacteria undergo significant changes in gene expression, resulting in adaptation to the mammalian environment. The organisms multiply and spread locally and induce inflammatory responses that, in humans, result in clinical signs and symptoms. Borrelia virulence involves a multiplicity of mechanisms for dissemination and colonization of multiple tissues and evasion of host immune responses. Most of the tissue damage, which is seen in non-reservoir hosts, appears to result from host inflammatory reactions, despite the low numbers of bacteria in affected sites. This host response to the Lyme disease Borrelia can cause neurologic, cardiovascular, arthritic, and dermatologic manifestations during the disseminated and persistent stages of infection. The mechanisms by which a paucity of organisms (in comparison to many other infectious diseases) can cause varied and in some cases profound inflammation and symptoms remains mysterious but are the subjects of diverse ongoing investigations. In this chapter, we provide an overview of virulence mechanisms and determinants for which roles have been demonstrated in vivo, primarily in mouse models of infection.
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