Borrelia burgdorferi infection of the brain
Characterization of the organism and response to antibiotics and immune sera in the mouse model
Andrew R. Pachner, MD and Andrea Itano, BS
To learn more about the neurologic involvement in Lyme disease, we inoculated inbred mice with the causative agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi. We cultured brains and other organs, and measured anti-B burgdorferi antibody titers. We further studied a brain isolate for its plasmid DNA content and its response in vitro to immune sera and antibiotics. One strain of B burgdorferi, N40, was consistently infective for mice, and resulted in chronic infection of the bladder and spleen. SJL mice developed fewer culture-positive organs and had lower antibody titers than Balb/c and C57B1/6 mice. Organism was cultured from the brain early in the course of infection, and this isolate, named N40Br, was further studied in vitro. The plasmid content of N40Br was different from that of the infecting strain, implying either a highly selective process during infection or DNA rearrangement in the organism in vivo. N40Br was very sensitive to antibiotics, but only after prolonged incubation. Immune sera from both mice and humans infected with B burgdorferi were unable to completely kill the organism by complement-mediated cytotoxicity. These data demonstrate that B burgdorferi infects the brain of experimental animals, and is resistant to immune sera in vitro but sensitive to prolonged treatment with antibiotics.