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Vet Res. 2009 Mar-Apr;40(2):36. doi: 10.1051/vetres/2009019. Epub 2009 Apr 16.

Reviewing molecular adaptations of Lyme borreliosis spirochetes in the context of reproductive fitness in natural transmission cycles.

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Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48864, USA.


Lyme borreliosis (LB) is caused by a group of pathogenic spirochetes - most often Borrelia burgdorferi, B. afzelii, and B. garinii - that are vectored by hard ticks in the Ixodes ricinus-persulcatus complex, which feed on a variety of mammals, birds, and lizards. Although LB is one of the best-studied vector-borne zoonoses, the annual incidence in North America and Europe leads other vector-borne diseases and continues to increase. What factors make the LB system so successful, and how can researchers hope to reduce disease risk - either through vaccinating humans or reducing the risk of contacting infected ticks in nature? Discoveries of molecular interactions involved in the transmission of LB spirochetes have accelerated recently, revealing complex interactions among the spirochete-tick-vertebrate triad. These interactions involve multiple, and often redundant, pathways that reflect the evolution of general and specific mechanisms by which the spirochetes survive and reproduce. Previous reviews have focused on the molecular interactions or population biology of the system. Here molecular interactions among the LB spirochete, its vector, and vertebrate hosts are reviewed in the context of natural maintenance cycles, which represent the ecological and evolutionary contexts that shape these interactions. This holistic system approach may help researchers develop additional testable hypotheses about transmission processes, interpret laboratory results, and guide development of future LB control measures and management.

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