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Aggressive antibiotic therapy could not kill all spirochetes in monkeys with disseminated Lyme disease

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Persistence of Borrelia burgdorferi in Rhesus Macaques following Antibiotic Treatment of Disseminated Infection
–  Source: PloS One, Jan 11, 2012

By Monica E Embers, Mario T Philipp, et al.

The persistence of symptoms in Lyme disease patients following antibiotic therapy, and their causes, continue to be a matter of intense controversy. The studies presented here explore antibiotic efficacy using nonhuman primates.

Rhesus macaques were infected with B. burgdorferi and a portion received aggressive antibiotic therapy 4 to 6 months later.

Multiple methods were utilized for detection of residual organisms, including the feeding of lab-reared ticks on monkeys (xenodiagnosis), culture, immunofluorescence and PCR.

• Antibody responses to the B. burgdorferi-specific C6 diagnostic peptide were measured longitudinally and declined in all treated animals.

B. burgdorferi antigen, DNA and RNA were detected in the tissues of treated animals.

• Finally, small numbers of intact spirochetes were recovered by xenodiagnosis from treated monkeys.

These results demonstrate that B. burgdorferi can withstand antibiotic treatment, administered post-dissemination, in a primate host.

Though B. burgdorferi is not known to possess resistance mechanisms and is susceptible to the standard antibiotics (doxycycline, ceftriaxone) in vitro [in lab samples], it appears to become tolerant post-dissemination in the primate host.

This finding raises important questions about the pathogenicity of antibiotic-tolerant persisters and whether or not they can contribute to symptoms post-treatment.

Source: PloS One, Jan 11, 2012 Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029914, by Embers ME, Barthods SW, Borda JT, Bowers L, Doyle L, Hodzic E, Jacobs MB, Hasenkampf NR, Martin DS, Narasimhan S, Phillippi-Falkenstein KM, Purcell JE, Ratterree MS, Philipp MT. Divisions of Bacteriology & Parasitology, Comparative Pathology and Veterinary Medicine, Tulane National Primate Research Center, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, Covington, Louisiana;  Center for Comparative Medicine, Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of California Davis, Davis, California; Section of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. [Email:  and]

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One thought on “Aggressive antibiotic therapy could not kill all spirochetes in monkeys with disseminated Lyme disease”

  1. victoria says:

    Good experiment at least — but they need to read more research! I take issue with the statement that Lyme/borrelia burgdorferi “is not known to possess resistance mechanisms”!?! I don’t understand how they can say that. Defense mechanisms have been known for a LONG time, some of which are:
    slow replication time (thus avoiding abx), they can become cell wall deficient;
    they can live intracelluarly inside many different cells, even in the brain;
    they can release “blebs” which bind free antibodies- the Western Blot & ELISA only detect free antibodies;
    they can also escape immune detection by altering surface protein antigens; and form cysts, encapsulating themselves to hide out from abx.
    Read at any Lyme Disease org to confirm as they do give references from bonafide accepted/published research that you can check; even Dr. Jones’ 1998 paper cites these “resistance mechanisms” with references. Unless these researchers have another name for what these spirochetes do to evade treatment?

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