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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2019 Nov 14;85(23). pii: e01887-19. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01887-19. Print 2019 Dec 1.

Maternal Antibodies Provide Bank Voles with Strain-Specific Protection against Infection by the Lyme Disease Pathogen.

Author information

1
Laboratoire d'Ecologie et Evolution des Parasites, Institut de Biologie, Université de Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
2
Department of Pathobiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
3
Laboratoire d'Ecologie et Evolution des Parasites, Institut de Biologie, Université de Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland maarten.voordouw@usask.ca.
4
Department of Veterinary Microbiology, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada.

Abstract

Multistrain microbial pathogens often induce strain-specific antibody responses in their vertebrate hosts. Mothers can transmit antibodies to their offspring, which can provide short-term, strain-specific protection against infection. Few experimental studies have investigated this phenomenon for multiple strains of zoonotic pathogens occurring in wildlife reservoir hosts. The tick-borne bacterium Borrelia afzelii causes Lyme disease in Europe and consists of multiple strains that cycle between the tick vector (Ixodes ricinus) and vertebrate hosts, such as the bank vole (Myodes glareolus). We used a controlled experiment to show that female bank voles infected with B. afzelii via tick bite transmit protective antibodies to their offspring. To test the specificity of protection, the offspring were challenged using a natural tick bite challenge with either the maternal strain to which the mothers had been exposed or a different strain. The maternal antibodies protected the offspring against a homologous infectious challenge but not against a heterologous infectious challenge. The offspring from the uninfected control mothers were equally susceptible to both strains. Borrelia outer surface protein C (OspC) is an antigen that is known to induce strain-specific immunity. Maternal antibodies in the offspring reacted more strongly with homologous than with heterologous recombinant OspC, but other antigens may also mediate strain-specific immunity. Our study shows that maternal antibodies provide strain-specific protection against B. afzelii in an ecologically important rodent reservoir host. The transmission of maternal antibodies may have important consequences for the epidemiology of multistrain pathogens in nature.IMPORTANCE Many microbial pathogen populations consist of multiple strains that induce strain-specific antibody responses in their vertebrate hosts. Females can transmit these antibodies to their offspring, thereby providing them with short-term strain-specific protection against microbial pathogens. We investigated this phenomenon using multiple strains of the tick-borne microbial pathogen Borrelia afzelii and its natural rodent reservoir host, the bank vole, as a model system. We found that female bank voles infected with B. afzelii transmitted to their offspring maternal antibodies that provided highly efficient but strain-specific protection against a natural tick bite challenge. The transgenerational transfer of antibodies could be a mechanism that maintains the high strain diversity of this tick-borne pathogen in nature.

KEYWORDS:

Borrelia afzelii; Borrelia burgdorferi; Lyme disease; ecology of infectious disease; maternal antibodies; maternal effects; outer surface protein C; strain-specific immunity; tick-borne disease; vector-borne pathogen

PMID:
31540991
DOI:
10.1128/AEM.01887-19

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