Detection of attenuated, noninfectious spirochetes in Borrelia burgdorferi-infected mice after antibiotic treatment

J Infect Dis. 2002 Nov 15;186(10):1430-7. doi: 10.1086/345284. Epub 2002 Oct 23.

Abstract

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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / drug effects*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / pathogenicity
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Immunosuppression
  • Lyme Disease / drug therapy
  • Lyme Disease / microbiology*
  • Lyme Disease / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Xenodiagnosis

Substances

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • DNA, Bacterial