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Concept: Lyme disease


Zoonoses originating from wildlife represent a significant threat to global health, security and economic growth, and combatting their emergence is a public health priority. However, our understanding of the mechanisms underlying their emergence remains rudimentary. Here we update a global database of emerging infectious disease (EID) events, create a novel measure of reporting effort, and fit boosted regression tree models to analyze the demographic, environmental and biological correlates of their occurrence. After accounting for reporting effort, we show that zoonotic EID risk is elevated in forested tropical regions experiencing land-use changes and where wildlife biodiversity (mammal species richness) is high. We present a new global hotspot map of spatial variation in our zoonotic EID risk index, and partial dependence plots illustrating relationships between events and predictors. Our results may help to improve surveillance and long-term EID monitoring programs, and design field experiments to test underlying mechanisms of zoonotic disease emergence.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Lyme disease, Swine influenza, Pandemic, Zoonosis


Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of Lyme disease, has cholesterol and cholesterol-glycolipids that are essential for bacterial fitness, are antigenic, and could be important in mediating interactions with cells of the eukaryotic host. We show that the spirochetes can acquire cholesterol from plasma membranes of epithelial cells. In addition, through fluorescent and confocal microscopy combined with biochemical approaches, we demonstrated that B. burgdorferi labeled with the fluorescent cholesterol analog BODIPY-cholesterol or (3)H-labeled cholesterol transfer both cholesterol and cholesterol-glycolipids to HeLa cells. The transfer occurs through two different mechanisms, by direct contact between the bacteria and eukaryotic cell and/or through release of outer membrane vesicles. Thus, two-way lipid exchange between spirochetes and host cells can occur. This lipid exchange could be an important process that contributes to the pathogenesis of Lyme disease.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Eukaryote, Cell membrane, Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia, Spirochaete


Comparative analysis of ospC genes from 127 Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto strains collected in Lyme disease endemic and non-endemic European and North American regions revealed close relatedness of geographically distinct populations. OspC alleles A, B and L were detected on both continents in vectors and hosts including humans. Six ospC alleles, A, B, L, Q, R and V, were prevalent in Europe; 4 of them were detected in samples of human origin. Ten ospC alleles, A, B, D, E3, F, G, H, H3, I3 and M, were identified in the far-western U.S.A. Four ospC alleles, B, G, H and L, were abundant in the southeastern U.S.A. Here we present the first expanded analysis of ospC alleles of B. burgdorferi strains from the southeastern U.S.A with respect to their relatedness to strains from other North American and European localities. We demonstrate that ospC genotypes commonly associated with human Lyme disease in endemic European and North American regions were detected in B. burgdorferi strains isolated from non-human biting tick Ixodes affinis and rodent hosts in southeastern U.S.A. We discovered that some ospC alleles previously known only from Europe are widely distributed in the southeastern U.S.A., a finding that confirms the hypothesis of trans-oceanic migration of Borrelia species.

Concepts: Bacteria, Lyme disease, Ixodes scapularis, North America, Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia, Allen Steere, Willy Burgdorfer


Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato is the causative agent of Lyme disease (LD). Recent studies have shown that recognition of the spirochete is mediated mainly by TLR2 and NOD2. The latter receptor has been associated with the induction of the intracellular degradation process called autophagy. The present study demonstrated for the first time the induction of autophagy by exposure to B. burgdorferi and that autophagy modulates the B. burgdorferi-dependent cytokine production. Human PBMCs treated with autophagy inhibitors showed an increased IL-1β and IL-6 production in response to the exposure of the spirochete, while TNFα production was unchanged. Autophagy induction against B. burgdorferi was dependent on reactive oxygen species (ROS) since cells from patients with chronic granulomatous disease (CGD), which are defective in ROS production, also produced elevated IL-1β. Further, the enhanced production of the pro-inflammatory cytokines was because of the elevated mRNA expression in the absence of autophagy. Our results thus demonstrate the induction of autophagy, which in-turn modulates cytokine production, by B. burgdorferi for the first time.

Concepts: Bacteria, Cytokine, Reactive oxygen species, Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia, Spirochaetes, Spirochaete


BACKGROUND: Among a variety of more common differential diagnoses, the aetiology of acute respiratory failure includes Lyme neuroborreliosis. CASE PRESENTATION: We report an 87-years old huntsman with unilateral phrenic nerve palsy as a consequence of Lyme neuroborreliosis. CONCLUSION: Although Lyme neuroborreliosis is a rare cause of diaphragmatic weakness, it should be considered in the differential workup because of its potentially treatable nature.

Concepts: Medical terms, Lyme disease, Respiratory system, Thoracic diaphragm, Differential diagnosis, Phrenic nerve, Respiratory failure, Neuroborreliosis


ABSTRACT The rodent Peromyscus leucopus is a major natural reservoir for the Lyme disease agent Borrelia burgdorferi and a host for its vector Ixodes scapularis. At various locations in northeastern United States 10 to 15 B. burgdorferi strains coexist at different prevalences in tick populations. We asked whether representative strains of high or low prevalence differed in their infections of P. leucopus. After 5 weeks of experimental infection of groups with each of 6 isolates, distributions and burdens of bacteria in tissues were measured by quantitative PCR, and antibodies to B. burgdorferi were evaluated by immunoblotting and protein microarray. All groups of animals were infected in their joints, ears, tails, and hearts, but overall spirochete burdens were lower in animals infected with low-prevalence strains. Animals were similar regardless of the infecting isolate in their levels of antibodies to whole cells, FlaB, BmpA, and DbpB proteins, and the conserved N-terminal region of the serotype-defining OspC proteins. But there were strain-specific antibody responses to full-length OspC and to plasmid-encoded VlsE, BBK07, and BBK12 proteins. Sequencing of additional VlsE genes revealed substantial diversity within some pairs of strains but near-identical sequences within other pairs, which otherwise differed in their ospC alleles. The presence or absence of full-length bbk07 and bbk12 genes accounted for the differences in antibody responses. We propose that for B. burgdorferi, there is selection in reservoir species for (i) sequence diversity, as for OspC and VlsE, and (ii) the presence or absence of polymorphisms, as for BBK07 and BBK12. IMPORTANCE Humans are dead-end hosts for Borrelia agents of Lyme disease (LD), and, thus, irrelevant for the pathogens' maintenance. Many reports of human cases and laboratory mouse infections exist, but less is known about infection and immunity in natural reservoirs, such as the rodent Peromyscus leucopus. We observed that high- and low-prevalence strains of Borrelia burgdorferi were capable of infecting P. leucopus but elicited different patterns of antibody responses. Antibody reactivities to the VlsE protein were as type-specific as previously characterized reactivities to serotype-defining OspC proteins. In addition, the low-prevalence strains lacked full-length genes for two proteins that (i) are encoded by a virulence-associated plasmid in some high-prevalence strains and (ii) LD patients and field-captured rodents commonly have antibodies to. Immune selection against these genes may have led to null phenotype lineages that can infect otherwise immune hosts but at the cost of reduced fitness and lower prevalence.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Protein, Bacteria, Infection, Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia


Lyme disease is an underdiagnosed zoonosis in Brazil. There are no cases registered in the state of Tocantins, the newest Brazilian state. The cases of three patients in contact with rural areas in three Tocantins' districts are herein described, and the Brazilian literature is reviewed.

Concepts: Lyme disease, Brazil, Zoonosis, Goiás, Maranhão, States of Brazil, Zoonoses


BACKGROUND: Glanders is a contagious and fatal zoonotic disease of solipeds caused by the Gram-negative bacterium Burkholderia (B.) mallei. Although regulations call for culling of diseased animals, certain situations e.g. wild life conservation, highly valuable breeding stock, could benefit from effective treatment schemes and post-exposure prophylaxis. RESULTS: Twenty three culture positive glanderous horses were successfully treated during a confined outbreak by applying a treatment protocol of 12 weeks duration based on the parenteral administration of enrofloxacin and trimethoprim plus sulfadiazine, followed by the oral administration of doxycycline. Induction of immunosupression in six randomly chosen horses after completion of treatment did not lead to recrudescence of disease. CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates that long term treatment of glanderous horses with a combination of various antibiotics seems to eliminate the agent from the organism. However, more studies are needed to test the effectiveness of this treatment regime on B. mallei strains from different endemic regions. Due to its cost and duration, this treatment can only be an option in certain situations and should not replace the current “testing and culling” policy, in conjunction with adequate compensation to prevent spreading of disease.

Concepts: HIV, Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Malaria, Lyme disease, Burkholderia mallei, Zoonosis, Glanders


BACKGROUND: Although tick-borne diseases are important causes of morbidity and mortality in dogs in tropical areas, there is little information on the agents causing these infections in the Caribbean. METHODOLOGY: We used PCRs to test blood from a cross-section of dogs on St Kitts for Ehrlichia (E.) canis, Babesia (B.) spp., Anaplasma (A.) spp. and Hepatozoon (H.) spp. Antibodies against E. canis and A. phagocytophilum/platys were detected using commercial immunochromatography tests. Records of the dogs were examined retrospectively to obtain clinical and laboratory data. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: There was serological and/or PCR evidence of infections of dogs with E. canis (27%; 46/170), Babesia spp. (24%; 90/372) including B. canis vogeli (12%; 43/372) and B. gibsoni (10%; 36/372), A. platys (11%; 17/157) and H. canis (6%; 15/266). We could not identify the Babesia sp. detected in nine dogs. There was evidence of multiple infections with dual infections with E. canis and B. canis vogeli (8%; 14/179) or B. gibsoni (7%; 11/170) being the most common. There was agreement between immunochromatography and PCR test results for E. canis for 87% of dogs. Only 13% of exposed dogs had signs of a tick-borne disease and 38% had laboratory abnormalities. All 10 dogs presenting for a recheck after treatment of E. canis with doxycycline were apparently healthy although all remained seropositive and six still had laboratory abnormalities despite an average of two treatments with the most recent being around 12 months previously. Infections with Babesia spp. were also mainly subclinical with only 6% (4/67) showing clinical signs and 13% (9/67) having laboratory abnormalities. Similarly, animals with evidence of infections with A. platys and H. canis were largely apparently healthy with only occasional laboratory abnormalities. CONCLUSIONS: Dogs are commonly infected with tick-borne pathogens in the Caribbean with most having no clinical signs or laboratory abnormalities.

Concepts: Apicomplexa, Lyme disease, Tick, Caribbean, Ehrlichiosis, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Kitts, Anguilla


BACKGROUND: Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (CNM) has been described in the hard tick Ixodes ricinus and rodents as well as in some severe cases of human disease. The aims of this study were to identify DNA of CNM in small mammals, the ticks parasitizing them and questing ticks in areas with sympatric existence of Ixodes ricinus and Dermacentor reticulatus in Germany. METHODS: Blood, transudate and organ samples (spleen, kidney, liver, skin) of 91 small mammals and host-attached ticks from altogether 50 small mammals as well as questing I. ricinus ticks (n=782) were screened with a real-time PCR for DNA of CNM. RESULTS: 52.7% of the small mammals were positive for CNM-DNA. The majority of the infected animals were yellow-necked mice (Apodemus flavicollis) and bank voles (Myodes glareolus). Small mammals with tick infestation were more often infected with CNM than small mammals without ticks. Compared with the prevalence of ~25% in the questing I. ricinus ticks, twice the prevalence in the rodents provides evidence for their role as reservoir hosts for CNM. CONCLUSION: The high prevalence of this pathogen in the investigated areas in both rodents and ticks points towards the need for more specific investigation on its role as a human pathogen.

Concepts: Lyme disease, Mammal, Rodent, Ixodidae, Acari, Ixodes scapularis, Dermacentor variabilis, Ixodes holocyclus