Objective: The immunologic events that lead to persistent joint inflammation in certain patients with Lyme arthritis post-antibiotic treatment have been elusive so far. The prevalence of this condition is highest in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis-associated HLA-DR alleles. This study was undertaken to generate a murine model with persistent arthritis post-antibiotic treatment.
Methods: We have previously shown that CD28(-/-) mice develop intermittent monarticular Lyme arthritis that is responsive to antibiotics. Since there seems to be a link in humans between persistent arthritic manifestations post-antibiotic treatment and the HLA-DR4 allele, we generated DR4+/+CD28(-/-)MHCII(-/-) mice, infected them with Borrelia burgdorferi, and subsequently treated them with antibiotics.
Results: Thirty-eight percent of the B burgdorferi-infected DR4+/+CD28(-/-)MHCII(-/-) mice, but none of the B burgdorferi-infected CD28(-/-)MHCII(-/-) mice, remained arthritic post-antibiotic treatment. A significant fraction (36%) of these mice, but none of the mice in which arthritis resolved, had serum antibodies to outer surface protein A of B burgdorferi. After abrogation of active B burgdorferi infection, the inflammatory reaction in mice with persistent joint inflammation was restricted to the joints, since their draining lymph nodes were no longer enlarged. Increased CD20 and interferon-gamma messenger RNA expression in the inflamed joints of these mice suggested a possible role of B cells and inflammatory cytokines in the pathogenesis of persistent arthritis post-antibiotic treatment.
Conclusion: The establishment of this murine model allows, for the first time, the elucidation of the immunologic events that lead to persistent Lyme arthritis post-antibiotic therapy in genetically susceptible individuals.