Host association of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato--the key role of host complement

Trends Microbiol. 2002 Feb;10(2):74-9. doi: 10.1016/s0966-842x(01)02298-3.


Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.), the tick-borne agent of Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial species complex comprising 11 genospecies. Here, we discuss whether the delineation of genospecies is ecologically relevant. We provide evidence that B. burgdorferi s.l. is structured ecologically into distinct clusters that are host specific. An immunological model for niche adaptation is proposed that suggests the operation of complement-mediated selection in the midgut of the feeding tick. We conclude that vertebrate hosts rather than tick species are the key to Lyme borreliosis spirochaete diversity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachnid Vectors*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / genetics
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / physiology*
  • Complement Pathway, Alternative
  • Complement System Proteins / physiology*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / immunology
  • Species Specificity
  • Ticks / parasitology*
  • Ticks / physiology
  • Vertebrates / immunology*


  • Complement System Proteins