A large amount of knowledge has been acquired since the original descriptions of Lyme borreliosis (LB) and of its causative agent, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto. The complexity of the organism and the variations in the clinical manifestations of LB caused by the different B. burgdorferi sensu lato species were not then anticipated. Considerable improvement has been achieved in detection of B. burgdorferi sensu lato by culture, particularly of blood specimens during early stages of disease. Culturing plasma and increasing the volume of material cultured have accomplished this. Further improvements might be obtained if molecular methods are used for detection of growth in culture and if culture methods are automated. Unfortunately, culture is insensitive in extracutaneous manifestations of LB. PCR and culture have high sensitivity on skin samples of patients with EM whose diagnosis is based mostly on clinical recognition of the lesion. PCR on material obtained from extracutaneous sites is in general of low sensitivity, with the exception of synovial fluid. PCR on synovial fluid has shown a sensitivity of up to >90% (when using four different primer sets) in patients with untreated or partially treated Lyme arthritis, making it a helpful confirmatory test in these patients. Currently, the best use of PCR is for confirmation of the clinical diagnosis of suspected Lyme arthritis in patients who are IgG immunoblot positive. PCR should not be used as the sole laboratory modality to support a clinical diagnosis of extracutaneous LB. PCR positivity in seronegative patients suspected of having late manifestations of LB most likely represents a false-positive result. Because of difficulties in direct methods of detection, laboratory tests currently in use are mainly those detecting antibodies to B. burgdorferi sensu lato. Tests used to detect antibodies to B. burgdorferi sensu lato have evolved from the initial formats as more knowledge on the immunodominant antigens has been collected. The recommendation for two-tier testing was an attempt to standardize testing and improve specificity in the United States. First-tier assays using whole-cell sonicates of B. burgdorferi sensu lato need to be standardized in terms of antigen composition and detection threshold of specific immunoglobulin classes. The search for improved serologic tests has stimulated the development of recombinant protein antigens and the synthesis of specific peptides from immunodominant antigens. The use of these materials alone or in combination as the source of antigen in a single-tier immunoassay may someday replace the currently recommended two-tier testing strategy. Evaluation of these assays is currently being done, and there is evidence that certain of these antigens may be broadly cross-reactive with the B. burgdorferi sensu lato species causing LB in Europe.
Between 1993 and 1998, we isolated Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato from 55 of the 119 patients with clinically diagnosed Lyme borreliosis who were admitted to “San Martino” Hospital in Belluno, Veneto, an Adriatic region in northeastern Italy where Lyme borreliosis is endemic. Upon hospitalization, all patients presented erythema migrans. Isolates were typed using ribosomal DNA PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of the rrfA-rrlB intergenic spacer. Of the 41 isolates typed, 37 belonged to Borrelia afzelii, 2 to Borrelia garinii, and 2 to B. burgdorferi sensu stricto. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, performed on 21 strains (13 new isolates and 8 controls), revealed different RFLP patterns within the B. garinii and B. afzelii strains; among the five B. garinii strains and the 12 B. afzelii strains, three or two different RFLP patterns were identified, according to the restriction enzyme used. The protein patterns of the new isolates confirmed their genotypic classification and revealed the level of expression of some immunodominant proteins like OspA and other characteristic Osps. These findings constitute the first report of such a high recovery rate of B. burgdorferi from patients in a very restricted area in Italy; they also indicate the predominance of the genospecies B. afzelii in the study area and the heterogeneity of the circulating strains.
We report the results of a study of the prevalences of three clinically relevant Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato genospecies (Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia afzelii, and Borrelia garinii) in 1,040 questing Ixodes ticks from all regions of Latvia, where Lyme borreliosis is endemic. The prevalences of Borrelia in Ixodes ricinus and Ixodes persulcatus were 22.6 and 27.9%, respectively. Molecular typing of B. burgdorferi from infected ticks was performed by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of PCR-amplified fragments of the 16S-23S (rrs-rrlA) rRNA intergenic spacer by using species-specific primers and subsequent sequencing. The dominant Borrelia species in both Ixodes species was B. afzelii. In addition, different restriction patterns of B. garinii and B. afzelii were also identified. This study demonstrates that the 16S-23S rRNA PCR-RFLP typing method is simple, sensitive, and fast and that it allows one to differentiate among B. burgdorferi species and subspecies with various degrees of pathogenic potential directly in ticks. These features are important in monitoring Lyme disease.
A LightCycler-based PCR protocol was developed which targets the ospA gene for the identification and quantification of the different Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato species in culture and in ticks, based on the use of a fluorescently labeled probe (HybProbe) and an internally labeled primer. The detection limit of the PCR was 1 to 10 spirochetes. A melting temperature determined from the melting curve of the amplified product immediately after thermal cycling allowed the differentiation of the three different B. burgdorferi sensu lato genospecies (B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia garinii, and Borrelia afzelii) that are clinically relevant in Europe in a single PCR run. This method represents a simplified approach to study the association of different Borrelia species in ticks, the risk of Lyme borreliosis, and the putatively species-specific clinical sequelae. To determine the reliability of the real-time PCR protocol, we studied the prevalence of B. burgdorferi sensu lato infection in Ixodes ricinus ticks. A total of 1,055 ticks were collected by flagging vegetation in five different sites in the region of Konstanz (south Germany) and were examined for the distribution of B. burgdorferi species by real-time PCR. The mean infection rate was 35%. Of 548 adult ticks, 40% were positive, and of 507 nymphs, 30% were positive. The predominant genospecies (with 18% mixed infections) in the examined areas was B. afzelii (53%), followed by B. garinii (18%) and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (11%); 0.8% of the infecting Borrelia could not be identified.
Since Lyme arthritis was first described in the United States, it has now been reported in many countries of Europe. However, very few strains of the causative bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, have been isolated from synovial samples. For this reason, different molecular direct typing methods were developed recently to assess which species could be involved in Lyme arthritis in Europe. We developed a simple oligonucleotide typing method with PCR fragments from the flagellin gene of B. burgdorferi sensu lato, which is able to differentiate seven different Borrelia species. Among 10 consecutive PCR-positive patients with Lyme arthritis from the northeastern France, two species were identified in synovial samples: B. burgdorferi sensu stricto in 9 cases and B. garinii in 1 case. Conversely, all B. burgdorferi sensu lato species detected in 10 consecutive PCR-positive biopsies from a second set of patients with erythema migrans from the same geographical area were identified as either B. afzelii or B. garinii (P < 0.001). These results indicate that B. burgdorferi sensu stricto is the principal but not the only Borrelia species involved in Lyme arthritis in northeastern France.
The aim of this study was to determine the cause of illness in several human patients residing in Florida and Georgia, USA, with suspected Lyme disease based upon EM-like skin lesions and/or symptoms consistent with early localized or late disseminated Lyme borreliosis. Using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays developed specifically for Lyme group Borrelia spp., followed by DNA sequencing for confirmation, we identified Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato DNA in samples of blood and skin and also in lone star ticks (Amblyomma americanum) removed from several patients who either live in or were exposed to ticks in Florida or Georgia. This is the first report to present combined PCR and DNA sequence evidence of infection with Lyme Borrelia spp. in human patients in the southern U.S., and to demonstrate that several B. burgdorferi sensu lato species may be associated with Lyme disease-like signs and symptoms in southern states. Based on the findings of this study, we suggest that human Lyme borreliosis occurs in Florida and Georgia, and that some cases of Lyme-like illness referred to as southern tick associated rash illness (STARI) in the southern U.S. may be attributable to previously undetected B. burgdorferi sensu lato infections.
Lyme borreliosis; Florida; Georgia
Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) were investigated for their value as sentinel animals for Lyme borreliosis in the Netherlands. Serum was obtained from 114 roe deer, and 513 Ixodes ricinus, predominantly females (72%), were obtained from 47 animals (41%). The polymerase chain reaction was used to detect DNA of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in a total of 190 ticks, comprising 106 engorged ticks and 84 non-engorged ticks. Borrelia DNA was detected in 24 engorged ticks (23%) and 26 non-engorged ticks (31%). This difference was not significant (P = 0.25). Four species of B. burgdorferi sensu lato were identified in the ticks. B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia garinii, Borrelia afzelii and group VS116. B. afzelii was most commonly found and present in 13 mixed infections, and in 28 single infections. Fifteen sera (13%) contained antibodies to Borrelia spp. Ticks are more appropriate sentinel animals for Lyme borreliosis than roe deer, an important host for I. ricinus. Although the viability of borrelia spirochaetes in engorged ticks collected from roe deer was not assessed, a bloodmeal taken from roe deer did not eliminate borrelia spirochaetes from the tick. The relevance of this finding for transovarial transmission of borrelia spirochaetes in ticks is discussed.
Up to now, the only species in the complex Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato known to cause Lyme borreliosis in the United States has been B. burgdorferi sensu stricto. However, some atypical strains closely related to the previously designated genomic group DN127 have been isolated in the United States, mostly in California. To explore the diversity of B. burgdorferi sensu lato group DN127, we analyzed the nucleotide sequences of the rrf-rrl intergenic spacer regions from 19 atypical strains (18 from California and one from New York) and 13 North American B. burgdorferi sensu stricto strains (6 from California). The spacer region sequences from the entire B. burgdorferi sensu lato complex available in data banks were used for comparison. Phylogenetic analysis of sequences shows that the main species of the B. burgdorferi sensu lato complex (B. afzelii, B. garinii, B. andersonii, B. japonica, B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, B. valaisiana, and B. lusitaniae) each form a coherent cluster. A heterogeneous group comprising strains belonging to the previously designated group DN127 clustered separately from B. burgdorferi sensu stricto. Within this cluster, the deep branches expressing the distances between the rrf-rrl sequences reflect a high level of divergence. This unexpected diversity contrasts with the monomorphism exhibited by B. burgdorferi sensu stricto. To clarify the taxonomic status of this highly heterogeneous group, analysis of the rrs sequences of selected strains chosen from deeply separated branches was performed. The results show that these strains significantly diverge at a level that is compatible with several distinct genomic groups. We conclude that the taxonomy and phylogeny of North American B. burgdorferi sensu lato should be reevaluated. For now, we propose that the genomic group DN127 should be referred to as a new species, B. bissettii sp. nov., and that other related but distinct strains, which require further characterization, be referred to as Borrelia spp.
The etiologic agent of Lyme borreliosis, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, has been isolated from many biologic sources in North America and Eurasia, and isolates have been divided into three distinct genospecies (B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia garinii, and Borrelia afzelii). In order to explore the possible association of genospecies with disease manifestation, 60 isolates of B. burgdorferi sensu lato were subjected to 5S rDNA-linked restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis. The results confirmed earlier studies which indicated that virtually all North American isolates are B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, whereas Eurasian strains fall into all three genospecies. Thirty-five isolates were further characterized by PCR amplification of a region of the 16S-23S rDNA spacer and HinfI digestion of the products. This method resulted in the subdivision of B. burgdorferi sensu stricto into two distinct PCR-RFLP types. In contrast, B. garinii isolates all displayed an identical pattern. Additionally, a number of previously unclassified North American isolates (25015, DN127, 19857, 24330) showed distinctively different PCR-RFLP patterns. The application of this method for the typing of uncultured B. burgdorferi directly in biologic samples was demonstrated by analysis of several field-collected Ixodes scapularis tick specimens. The described PCR-RFLP technique should allow for the direct and rapid molecular typing of B. burgdorferi-containing samples and facilitate studies of the relationship between spirochete genotype and clinical disease.
To further investigate the pathogenic potential of different Borrelia burgdorferi genospecies, specimens from 27 patients with different manifestations of Lyme borreliosis were analyzed by PCR and reverse line blotting (RLB). In samples from Lyme arthritis patients, B. burgdorferi sensu stricto was predominantly identified, while in patients with neuroborreliosis or acrodermatitis, Borrelia garinii and Borrelia afzelii, respectively, were exclusively detected. The results demonstrate that PCR-RLB is a valuable tool for epidemiological and pathogenetic studies of Lyme borreliosis.
Lyme borreliosis (LB) group spirochetes, collectively known as Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, are distributed worldwide. Wild rodents are acknowledged as the most important reservoir hosts. Ixodes scapularis is the primary vector of B. burgdorferi sensu lato in the eastern United States, and in the southeastern United States, the larvae and nymphs mostly parasitize certain species of lizards. The primary aim of the present study was to determine whether wild lizards in the southeastern United States are naturally infected with Lyme borreliae. Blood samples obtained from lizards in Florida and South Carolina were tested for the presence of LB spirochetes primarily by using B. burgdorferi sensu lato-specific PCR assays that amplify portions of the flagellin (flaB), outer surface protein A (ospA), and 66-kDa protein (p66) genes. Attempts to isolate spirochetes from a small number of PCR-positive lizards failed. However, PCR amplification and sequence analysis of partial flaB, ospA, and p66 gene fragments confirmed numerous strains of B. burgdorferi sensu lato, including Borrelia andersonii, Borrelia bissettii, and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, in blood from lizards from both states. B. burgdorferi sensu lato DNA was identified in 86 of 160 (54%) lizards representing nine species and six genera. The high infection prevalence and broad distribution of infection among different lizard species at different sites and at different times of the year suggest that LB spirochetes are established in lizards in the southeastern United States.
A total of 46 Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato isolates that were isolated from patients with Lyme borreliosis and infected animals or were extracted from ticks of the genus Ixodes were analyzed. Large restriction fragment patterns obtained after cleavage of genomic DNAs with MluI were analyzed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). To eliminate the contribution of plasmid DNA, only fragments greater than 70 kb were used for the analysis. The results indicated that each of the 14 B. burgdorferi sensu stricto isolates were recognized by a band at 135 kbp, each of the 12 Borrelia garinii isolates by two bands (220 and 80 kbp), and each of the 20 Borrelia afzelii isolates by three bands (460, 320, and 90 kbp). Whereas differences in the PFGE patterns among B. burgdorferi sensu stricto isolates and B. garinii isolates were noted, B. afzelii isolates were all similar. Identification of isolates by PFGE correlates with their belonging to a given species within B. burgdorferi sensu lato.
Lyme borreliosis (LB) is a tick-transmitted infectious disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s. l.). In Europe, three different Borrelia species are the main causative agents of LB: B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (s.s.), Borrelia afzelii, and Borrelia garinii. The latter depends heavily on birds as its main reservoir hosts. In fact, birds can act both as biological carriers of Borrelia and transporters of infected ticks. The seasonal migration of many bird species not only aid in the spread of B. garinii to new foci but also influence the high level of diversity found within this species. B. garinii have been isolated not only from terrestrial birds in Europe, but also from seabirds worldwide, and homology between isolates in these two different infection cycles suggests an overlap and exchange of strains. In addition, it has been shown that birds can maintain and spread B. garinii genotypes associated with LB in humans. This review article discusses the importance of birds in the ecology and epidemiology of B. garinii spirochetes.
Borrelia garinii; Lyme borreliosis; birds; reservoir hosts; ticks; Ixodes uriae; Ixodes ricinus
Oligonucleotide primers based on Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato ospA gene sequences have been designed for use in the PCR to type all (SL primers) or each (GI to GIII primers) of the B. burgdorferi sensu lato genospecies involved in Lyme disease. These genospecies-specific primers were then used in the PCR on 24 biological fluids collected from 18 neuroborreliosis patients. Among the samples tested, 20 contained DNA from Borrelia garinii, 11 contained DNA from B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, and 10 contained DNA from Borrelia afzelii. In toto, 10 patients appeared to have been infected by a single genospecies and 8 were infected by more than one Lyme disease-associated genospecies. Serum specimens from six patients were absorbed with heterologous antigens and tested by Western blotting (immunoblotting). In four cases, residual immunodetection revealed specific epitopes of genospecies also detected by PCR; in two of them, the concordant results indicated pluri-infection of the patients. In the other two cases, Western blotting showed specific antibodies for two genospecies of Borrelia, while PCR detected DNA from only one. In summary, the data underscored the relatively high prevalence of pluri-infections in Lyme disease and confirmed the association of B. garinii with neuroborreliosis.
Western blotting (WB; immunoblotting) is a widely used tool for the serodiagnosis of Lyme borreliosis (LB), but so far, no generally accepted criteria for performance and interpretation have been established in Europe. The current study was preceeded by a detailed analysis of WB with whole-cell lysates of three species of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (U. Hauser, G. Lehnert, R. Lobentanzer, and B. Wilske, J. Clin. Microbiol. 35:1433–1444, 1997). In that study, interpretation criteria for a positive WB result were developed with the data for 330 serum samples (from patients with LB in different stages [n = 189] and from a control group [n = 141]) originating mostly from southern Germany. In the present work, the interpretation criteria for strains PKo (Borrelia afzelii) and PBi (Borrelia garinii) developed in the previous study were reevaluated with 224 serum samples (from patients with LB in different stages [n = 97] and from a control group [n = 127]) originating from throughout Europe that were provided by the European Union Concerted Action on Lyme Borreliosis (EUCALB). De novo criteria were developed on the basis of the reactivities of the EUCALB sera and were evaluated with the data for the samples from southern Germany. Comparison of all results led to the following recommendations: For WB for immunoglobulin G (IgG), at least two bands among p83/100, p58, p43, p39, p30, OspC, p21, p17, and p14 for PKo and at least one band among p83/100, p39, p30, OspC, p21, and p17b for PBi; for WB for IgM, at least one band among p39, OspC, and p17 or a strong p41 band for PKo and at least one band among p39 and OspC or a strong p41 band for PBi. WB with PKo was the most sensitive, and this strain is recommended for use in WB for the serodiagnosis of LB throughout Europe.
Species of the tick-transmitted spirochete group Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (B. burgdorferi) cause Lyme borreliosis. Acute borrelial infection of the skin has unusual characteristics with only a mild local inflammatory response suggesting that the interaction between borreliae and the cells of the first-line defence might differ from that of other bacteria. It has been reported that human neutrophils phagocytose motile borreliae through an unconventional mechanism (tube phagocytosis) which is not observed with non-motile borreliae. Therefore, it would be of great interest to visualise the bacteria by a method not affecting motility and viability of borreliae to be able to study their interaction with the cells of the innate immunity. Carboxyfluorescein diacetate, succinimidyl ester (CFSE) labelling has been previously used for studying the adhesion of labelled bacteria to host cells and the uptake of labelled substrates by various cells using flow cytometry.
In this study, CFSE was shown to efficiently stain different genospecies of B. burgdorferi without affecting bacterial viability or motility. Use of CFSE staining allowed subsequent quantification of borreliae associated with human neutrophils with flow cytometry and confocal microscopy. As a result, no difference in association between different borrelial genospecies (Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia afzelii, Borrelia garinii), or between borreliae and the pyogenic bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes, with neutrophils could be detected. Borrelial virulence, on the other hand, affected association with neutrophils, with significantly higher association of a non-virulent mutant B. burgdorferi sensu stricto strain compared to the parental virulent wild type strain.
These results suggest that the flow cytometric assay using CFSE labelled borreliae is a valuable tool in the analysis of the interaction between borreliae and human neutrophils. The results also indicate a clear difference in the association with neutrophils between virulent and non-virulent borrelial strains.
Lyme arthritis is caused in Europe by three main pathogenic species of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato: Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia garinii, and Borrelia afzelii. Because few synovial samples have yet been analysed by species-specific DNA amplification methods, further studies are needed to define the spectra of clinical manifestations associated with these different species. Two cases of treatment resistant Lyme arthritis are reported here, in which DNA amplification of the flagellin gene followed by dot-blot hybridisation in the synovial fluid identified B garinii as the causative agent. Clinical and biological data did not differ from the usual descriptions of Lyme arthritis, but as the recently reported molecular mimicry between OspA and hLFA1 is not applicable to B garinii, the pathogenesis of the present cases remains unclear. Future studies should aim at assessing the role of B garinii in European Lyme arthritis and its possible pathogenic and therapeutic consequences.
Lyme borreliosis is a tick-borne disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato. The variety of characteristic and non-specific clinical manifestations is partially explained by its genetic diversity. We investigated the ability of B. burgdorferi sl isolates to cause erythema migrans.
The genetic constellation of isolates from ticks was compared to isolates found in erythema migrans. PCR and sequence analysis was performed on the plasmid-encoded ospC and the chromosomal 5S-23S rDNA spacer region (IGS).
Seven different B. burgdorferi sl genospecies were identified in 152 borrelia isolates from ticks and erythema migrans biopsies. B afzelii (51%) and B. garinii (27%) were the most common in ticks. From the 44 sequences obtained from erythema migrans samples 42 were B. afzelii, one B. garinii and one B. bavariensis. Significant associations with erythema migrans formation were found for four IGS and two ospC types. Five from 45 ospC types were associated with more than one genospecies.
B. burgdorferi sl isolates differ in their propensity to cause erythema migrans. These differences were also found within genospecies. In other words, although B. afzelii was mostly associated with erythema migrans, some B. afzelii isolates had a low ability to cause erythema migrans. Our data further support the occurrence of plasmid exchange between borrelia genospecies under natural conditions.
Lyme borreliosis; Erythema migrans; Molecular epidemiology; Virulence marker
The genetic diversity of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato was assessed in a focus of Lyme borreliosis in southern Britain dominated by game birds. Ticks, rodents, and pheasants were analyzed for spirochete infections by PCR targeting the 23S-5S rRNA genes, followed by genotyping by the reverse line blot method. In questing Ixodes ricinus ticks, three genospecies of B. burgdorferi sensu lato were detected, with the highest prevalences found for Borrelia garinii and Borrelia valaisiana. B. burgdorferi sensu stricto was rare (<1%) in all tick stages. Borrelia afzelii was not detected in any of the samples. More than 50% of engorged nymphs collected from pheasants were infected with borreliae, mainly B. garinii and/or B. valaisiana. Although 19% of the rodents harbored B. burgdorferi sensu stricto and/or B. garinii in internal organs, only B. burgdorferi sensu stricto was transmitted to xenodiagnostic tick larvae (it was transmitted to 1% of the larvae). The data indicate that different genospecies of B. burgdorferi sensu lato can be maintained in nature by distinct transmission cycles involving the same vector tick species but different vertebrate host species. Wildlife management may have an influence on the relative risk of different clinical forms of Lyme borreliosis.
In Europe, Borrelia burgdorferi genospecies causing Lyme borreliosis are mainly transmitted by the tick Ixodes ricinus. Since its discovery, B. burgdorferi has been the subject of many epidemiological studies to determine its prevalence and the distribution of the different genospecies in ticks. In the current study we systematically reviewed the literature on epidemiological studies of I. ricinus ticks infected with B. burgdorferi sensu lato. A total of 1,186 abstracts in English published from 1984 to 2003 were identified by a PubMed keyword search and from the compiled article references. A multistep filter process was used to select relevant articles; 110 articles from 24 countries contained data on the rates of infection of I. ricinus with Borrelia in Europe (112,579 ticks), and 44 articles from 21 countries included species-specific analyses (3,273 positive ticks). These data were used to evaluate the overall rate of infection of I. ricinus with Borrelia genospecies, regional distributions within Europe, and changes over time, as well as the influence of different detection methods on the infection rate. While the infection rate was significantly higher in adults (18.6%) than in nymphs (10.1%), no effect of detection method, tick gender, or collection period (1986 to 1993 versus 1994 to 2002) was found. The highest rates of infection of I. ricinus were found in countries in central Europe. B. afzelii and B. garinii are the most common Borrelia species, but the distribution of genospecies seems to vary in different regions in Europe. The most frequent coinfection by Borrelia species was found for B. garinii and B. valaisiana.
To delineate the inflammatory potential of the 3 pathogenic species of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, we stimulated monocyte-derived macrophages from healthy human donors with 10 isolates each of B. burgdorferi, B. afzelii, or B. garinii recovered from erythema migrans (EM) skin lesions of Lyme borreliosis patients from the United States or Slovenia. U.S. B. burgdorferi isolates induced macrophages to secrete significantly higher levels of IL-8, CCL3, CCL4, IL-6, IL-10 and TNF than B. garinii or B. afzelii isolates. Consistent with this response in cultured macrophages, the cytokine levels in sera of patients from whom the isolates were obtained were significantly greater in B. burgdorferi-infected patients than in B. afzelii- or B. garinii-infected patients. These results demonstrate in vitro and in vivo that B. burgdorferi has greater inflammatory potential than B. afzelii and B. garinii, which may account in part for variations in the clinical manifestations of Lyme borreliosis.
Lyme disease; Borrelia; inflammation; macrophages; cytokines; chemokines
The role of small mammals as reservoir hosts for Borrelia burgdorferi was investigated in several areas where Lyme disease is endemic in northern Spain. A low rate of infestation by Ixodes ricinus nymphs was found in the small mammal populations studied that correlated with the near-absence of B. burgdorferi sensu lato in 184 animals tested and with the lack of transmission of B. burgdorferi sensu lato to I. ricinus larvae that fed on them. In contrast, questing ticks collected at the same time and in the same areas were found to carry a highly variable B. burgdorferi sensu lato repertoire (B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia garinii, Borrelia valaisiana, and Borrelia afzelii). Interestingly, the only isolate obtained from small mammals (R57, isolated from a bank vole) grouped by phylogenetic analyses with other Borrelia species but in a separate clade from the Lyme disease and relapsing fever organisms, suggesting that it is a new species. This new agent was widely distributed among small mammals, with infection rates of 8.5 to 12% by PCR. Moreover, a high seroprevalence to B. burgdorferi sensu lato was found in the animal sera, suggesting cross-reactivity between B. burgdorferi sensu lato and R57. Although small mammals do not seem to play an important role as reservoirs for B. burgdorferi sensu lato in the study area, they seem to be implicated in the maintenance of spirochetes similar to R57.
Lyme disease, caused by various species of Borrelia, is transmitted by Ixodes ticks in North America and Europe. Studies have shown the genotype of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto (s.s.) or the species of B. burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) affects the ability of the bacteria to cause local or disseminated infection in humans.
We used a multilocus PCR electrospray mass spectrometry assay to determine the species and genotype Borrelia from ticks collected in New York, Connecticut, Indiana, Southern Germany, and California and characterized isolates from parts of the United States and Europe. These analyses identified 53 distinct genotypes of B. burgdorferi sensu stricto with higher resolution than ospC typing. Genotypes of other members of the B. burgdorferi sensu lato complex were also identified and genotyped including B. afzelii, B. garinii, B. lusitaniae, B. spielmanii, and B. valaisiana. While each site in North America had genotypes unique to that location, we found genotypes shared between individual regions and two genotypes found across the United States. Significant B. burgdorferi s.s. genotypic diversity was observed between North America and Europe: only 6.6% of US genotypes (3 of 45) were found in Europe and 27% of the European genotypes (3 of 11) were observed in the US. Interestingly, 39% of adult Ixodes scapularis ticks from North America were infected with more than one genotype of B. burgdorferi s.s. and 22.2% of Ixodes ricinus ticks from Germany were infected with more than one genotype of B. burgdorferi s.l.
The presence of multiple Borrelia genotypes in ticks increases the probability that a person will be infected with more than one genotype of B. burgdorferi, potentially increasing the risks of disseminated Lyme disease. Our study indicates that the genotypic diversity of Borrelia in ticks in both North America and Europe is higher then previously reported and can have potential clinical consequences.
After transmission by an infected tick, the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, colonizes the mammalian skin and may disseminate systemically. The three major species of Lyme disease spirochete—B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, B. garinii, and B. afzelii—are associated with different chronic disease manifestations. Colonization is likely promoted by the ability to bind to target tissues, and Lyme disease spirochetes utilize multiple adhesive molecules to interact with diverse mammalian components. The allelic variable surface lipoprotein decorin binding protein A (DbpA) promotes bacterial binding to the proteoglycan decorin and to the glycosaminoglycan (GAG) dermatan sulfate. To assess allelic variation of DbpA in GAG-, decorin-, and cell-binding activities, we expressed dbpA alleles derived from diverse Lyme disease spirochetes in B. burgdorferi strain B314, a noninfectious and nonadherent strain that lacks dbpA. Each DbpA allele conferred upon B. burgdorferi strain B314 the ability to bind to cultured kidney epithelial (but not glial or endothelial) cells, as well as to purified decorin and dermatan sulfate. Nevertheless, allelic variation of DbpA was associated with dramatic differences in substrate binding activity. In most cases, decorin and dermatan sulfate binding correlated well, but DbpA of B. afzelii strain VS461 promoted differential binding to decorin and dermatan sulfate, indicating that the two activities are separable. DbpA from a clone of B. burgdorferi strain N40 that can cause disseminated infection in mice displayed relatively low adhesive activity, indicating that robust DbpA-mediated adhesive activity is not required for spread in the mammalian host.
A total of 36 European Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato cerebrospinal fluid isolates (mainly from southern Germany) were analyzed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) for large restriction fragment pattern (LRFP) and linear plasmid profiles. Analyzing this large panel of isolates, we detected all three species of B. burgdorferi sensu lato pathogenic for humans in cerebrospinal fluid from patients with Lyme neuroborreliosis by PFGE typing after MluI digestion: 21 B. garinii (58%), 10 B. afzelii (28%), and 4 B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (11%) strains as well as 1 isolate with bands characteristic of both B. afzelii and B. garinii. Species classification by PFGE typing was confirmed by 16S rRNA-specific PCR. Eighteen isolates (11 B. garinii, 6 B. afzelii, and 1 B. burgdorferi sensu stricto isolate) were further characterized by LRFP with four different restriction enzymes (ApaI, KspI, SmaI, and XhoI). All B. afzelii isolates showed identical patterns for each restriction enzyme group. Considerable heterogeneity was demonstrated within the B. garinii group. Subsequent analysis of plasmid profiles revealed only marginal differences for B. afzelii strains but different patterns for B. garinii isolates. In one B. afzelii strain we found a linear plasmid of about 110 kbp not described before. LRFP analysis by PFGE is a suitable tool for the molecular characterization of B. burgdorferi sensu lato strains and allows determination not only of the species but also of the subtypes within B. garinii.