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Microbiol Spectr. 2016 Feb;4(1). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.VMBF-0005-2015.

Antigenic Variation in Bacterial Pathogens.

Abstract

Antigenic variation is a strategy used by a broad diversity of microbial pathogens to persist within the mammalian host. Whereas viruses make use of a minimal proofreading capacity combined with large amounts of progeny to use random mutation for variant generation, antigenically variant bacteria have evolved mechanisms which use a stable genome, which aids in protecting the fitness of the progeny. Here, three well-characterized and highly antigenically variant bacterial pathogens are discussed: Anaplasma, Borrelia, and Neisseria. These three pathogens display a variety of mechanisms used to create the structural and antigenic variation needed for immune escape and long-term persistence. Intrahost antigenic variation is the focus; however, the role of these immune escape mechanisms at the population level is also presented.

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