Lyme Disease Spirochetes Tracked in 3D

ScienceDaily (June 24, 2008) — Microbiologists at the University of Calgary have demonstrated the first direct visualization of the dissemination of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. This real-time, three-dimensional look at spirochete dissemination in a living mammalian host.

Pathogenic spirochetes are a group of bacteria that cause a number
of emerging and re-emerging diseases worldwide, including syphilis,
leptospirosis, relapsing fever, and Lyme disease. The mechanism by
which they disseminate from the blood to target sites is unknown.
Direct visualization of these bacteria may yield critical insight
into resultant disease processes.

The team therefore set out to directly observe these bacteria at the
single-cell level in a living host, using an engineered fluorescent
strain of B. burgdorferi as an example bacterium. Using conventional
and spinning disk confocal microscopy, the investigators were able
to track the movement of the bacteria and the interaction of the
bacteria with the vascular wall in mice. They found that vascular
escape is a multi-stage process and that spirochete movement appears
to play an integral role in dissemination from the blood to target
tissue sites.

This use of high-resolution, 3D imaging to visualize the
dissemination of a bacterial pathogen in vivo lays the groundwork
for a better understanding of the mechanisms by which these and
other bacteria disseminate throughout the body to cause disease.


Journal reference:

Moriarty TJ, Norman MU, Colarusso P, Bankhead T, Kubes P, et al.
Real-Time High Resolution 3D Imaging of the Lyme Disease Spirochete
Adhering to and Escaping from the Vasculature of a Living Host. PLoS
Pathog, 4(6): e1000090 DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1000090
Adapted from materials provided by Public Library of Science, via
EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
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Public Library of Science (2008, June 24). Lyme Disease Spirochetes
Tracked in 3D. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2008, from­ /releases/2008/06/080619203259.htm