The hallmark of disease caused by tick- and louse-borne relapsing fever due to Borrelia infection is cyclic febrile episodes, which in humans results in severe malaise and may lead to death. To evaluate the pathogenesis of relapsing fever due to spirochetes in an animal model closely related to humans, disease caused by Borrelia turicatae after tick bite was compared in 2 rhesus macaques in which radiotelemetry devices that recorded body temperatures in 24-hour increments were implanted. The radiotelemetry devices enabled real-time acquisition of core body temperatures and changes in heart rates and electrocardiogram intervals for 28 consecutive days without the need to constantly manipulate the animals. Blood specimens were also collected from all animals for 14 days after tick bite, and spirochete densities were assessed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. The complexity of disease caused by relapsing-fever spirochetes was demonstrated in the nonhuman primates monitored in real time. The animals experienced prolonged episodes of hyperthermia and hypothermia; disruptions in their diurnal patterns and repolarization of the heart were also observed. This is the first report of the characterizing disease progression with continuous monitoring in an animal model of relapsing fever due to Borrelia infection.
Keywords: Borrelia; Borrelia turicatae; relapsing fever; rhesus macaques; spirochetes.
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