AUG 25, 2016 10:55 AM PDT

Lyme Disease Moves Through the Bloodstream Like our Cells

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch
3 4 931
Researchers have learned more about how Lyme disease invades the body, and will publish their findings September 6 in Cell Reports. They’ve found that the bacteria that spreads the disease moves through blood vessels in a way like our own white blood cells do; by sticking to the walls of blood vessels, they can move at their own pace rather than being swept up in the flow. The video below explains the research.
“It’s really an amazing case of convergent evolution,” commented Wendy Thomas, a Biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle who did not participate in the study. “There’s little structural similarity between the molecules involved in these behaviors, and yet their behavior is the same.”
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, transmitted to humans through infected tick bites. Typically, the disease starts with non-specific symptoms like headache, fever and fatigue. A rash called erythema migrans can be indicative of Lyme, but doesn’t appear in all cases. If affected people don’t get treated, more serious health problems in joints, the nervous system and the heart can result.

While it’s known that B. burgdorferi can move in and out of the blood stream, the details of that process were not well understood before now.
Lyme Disease Bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi / Credit: NIAID
To get a good look at what was happening, Moriarty and her team created flow chambers that were lined with human endothelial (blood vessel) cells. With powerful microscopes and the aid of a computer program, they were able to visualize the migration of bacteria along this model bloodstream.

The B. burgdorferi bacterium uses a protein called BBK32 to form what’s called catch bonds with the endothelial cells, in the same way that white blood cells do. Those catch bonds only get stronger when subjected to mechanical stress, keeping bacteria latched on even when under pressure. The catch bonds are also assisted by structures that even out the burden placed on the bonds.
Those catch bonds also allow the bacterium to keep moving, which it must do in order to cause infection. One bond gets broken as another stays attached, and the load is advanced forward in the process, in a stepwise fashion. Again, this is like the movement of white blood cells.

B. burgdorferi also has flagella at its disposal to control its movement in the bloodstream. Like a drill bit, the flagella wrap around the bacteria to propel it forward, with a stronger force than those opposing it.

“What that basically means is that bacteria are strong enough to overcome the force that they experience under blood flow, which means they should be theoretically strong enough to get to a spot where they can exit the bloodstream,” says Moriarty.  These features might enable Lyme bacteria to control their entry and exit from the bloodstream, such that they then infect other organs.

Source: ScienceNews, CDC
 
About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAY 22, 2018
Technology
MAY 22, 2018
Tiniest House Ever Can Be Built on Strand of Hair
A French robotics team has built a micro-house to demonstrate their new nanotechnology prowess and a system called the μRobotex nanofactory.
MAY 30, 2018
Microbiology
MAY 30, 2018
'Innoculating' Newborns with Vaginal Fluids Found to be Unsafe
A lack of exposure to the vaginal canal does not account for the increased risk of later health problems for those born by C-section, researchers say.
JUN 06, 2018
Microbiology
JUN 06, 2018
Beating Stress with Bacteria
Microbes might be useful in the treatment of mental disorders like anxiety, depression and PTSD.
JUL 04, 2018
Videos
JUL 04, 2018
How Did Viruses Originate?
There is still a debate about whether or not viruses are a form of life, and we really don't know where they came from.
JUL 11, 2018
Microbiology
JUL 11, 2018
New Insight Into Bacterial Pathogenicity
Scientists have learned how some pathogenic bacteria stick to cells in the intestine, which gets their infection started.
AUG 11, 2018
Microbiology
AUG 11, 2018
A Microbrewery can Help us Monitor Radiation Exposure
This wearable technology is very sensitive, and can be used by workers that are at risk of radiation exposure.
Loading Comments...