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Borrelia burgdorferi stimulates macrophages to secrete higher levels of cytokines and chemokines than Borrelia afzelii or Borrelia garinii.

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To delineate the inflammatory potential of the 3 pathogenic species of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, we stimulated monocyte-derived macrophages from healthy human donors with 10 isolates each of B. burgdorferi, Borrelia afzelii, or Borrelia garinii recovered from erythema migrans skin lesions of patients with
Lyme borreliosis from the United States or Slovenia. B. burgdorferi isolates from the United States induced macrophages to secrete significantly higher levels of interleukin (IL)-8, CCL3, CCL4, IL-6, IL-10, and tumor necrosis factor than B. garinii or B. afzelii isolates. Consistent with this response in cultured macrophages, chemokine and cytokine levels in serum samples of patients from whom the isolates were obtained were significantly greater in B. burgdorferi-infected patients than in B. afzelii- or B. garinii-infected patients. These results demonstrate in vitro and in vivo that B. burgdorferi has greater inflammatory potential than B. afzelii and B. garinii, which may account in part for variations in the clinical manifestations of
Lyme borreliosis.

J Infect Dis. 2009 Dec 15;200(12):1936-43. doi: 10.1086/648091. Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S.

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