[Note: the full text of this Public Library of Science article is available free online
In order to clear the body of infecting spirochetes, phagocytic cells must be able to get hold of them. [Phagocytic cells are immune cells responsible for catching and engulfing invaders.]
In real-time phase-contrast videomicroscopy we were able to measure the speed of Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), the Lyme spirochete, moving back and forth across a platelet to which it was tethered.
Its mean crossing speed was 1,636 microm/min (N = 28), maximum, 2800 microm/min (N = 3). This is the fastest speed recorded for a spirochete, and upward of two orders of magnitude above the speed of a human neutrophil, the fastest cell in the body. [A phagocyte.]
This alacrity and its interpretation, in an organism with bidirectional motor capacity, may well contribute to difficulties in spirochete clearance by the host.
Source: PLoS ONE. 2008 Feb 20;3(2):e1633. PMID: 18286190, by Malawista SE and de Boisfleury Chevance A. Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America; Centre d’Ecologie Cellulaire, Hopital de la Salpetriere, Paris, France [E-mail: