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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Apr 20;107(16):7515-20. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1000268107. Epub 2010 Apr 5.

The bba64 gene of Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease agent, is critical for mammalian infection via tick bite transmission.

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Bacterial Diseases Branch, Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Collins, CO 80521, USA.


The spirochetal agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, is transmitted by bites of Ixodes ticks to mammalian reservoir hosts and humans. The mechanism(s) by which the organism is trafficked from vector to host is poorly understood. In this study, we demonstrate that a B. burgdorferi mutant strain deficient in the synthesis of the bba64 gene product was incapable of infecting mice via tick bite even though the mutant was (i) infectious in mice when introduced by needle inoculation, (ii) acquired by larval ticks feeding on infected mice, and (iii) able to persist through tick molting stages. This finding of a B. burgdorferi gene required for pathogen transfer and/or survival from the tick to the susceptible host represents an important breakthrough toward understanding transmission mechanisms involved for the Lyme disease agent.

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