Borreliella burgdorferi Antimicrobial-Tolerant Persistence in Lyme Disease and Posttreatment Lyme Disease Syndromes
Authors: Felipe C. Cabello, Monica E. Embers , Stuart A. Newman , Henry P. Godfrey
The annual incidence of Lyme disease, caused by tick-transmitted Borreliella burgdorferi, is estimated to be at least 476,000 cases in the United States and many more worldwide. Ten to 20% of antimicrobial-treated Lyme disease patients display posttreatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS), a clinical complication whose etiology and pathogenesis remain uncertain. Autoimmunity, cross-reactivity, molecular mimicry, coinfections, and borrelial tolerance to antimicrobials/persistence have been hypothesized and studied as potential causes of PTLDS. Studies of borrelial tolerance/persistence in vitro in response to antimicrobials and experimental studies in mice and nonhuman primates, taken together with clinical reports, have revealed that B. burgdorferi becomes tolerant to antimicrobials and may sometimes persist in animals and humans after the currently recommended antimicrobial treatment. Moreover, B. burgdorferi is pleomorphic and can generate viable-but-nonculturable bacteria, states also involved in antimicrobial tolerance. The multiple regulatory pathways and structural genes involved in mediating this tolerance to antimicrobials and environmental stressors by persistence might include the stringent (rel and dksA) and host adaptation (rpoS) responses, sugar metabolism (glpD), and polypeptide transporters (opp). Application of this recently reported knowledge to clinical studies can be expected to clarify the potential role of bacterial antibacterial tolerance/persistence in Lyme disease and PTLDS.
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