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Detection of attenuated, noninfectious spirochetes in Borrelia burgdorferi-infected mice after antibiotic treatment.

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Abstract

Xenodiagnosis by ticks was used to determine whether spirochetes persist in mice after 1 month of antibiotic therapy for vectorborne Borrelia burgdorferi infection. Immunofluorescence and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were used to show that spirochetes could be found in Ixodes scapularis ticks feeding on 4 of 10 antibiotic-treated mice up to 3 months after therapy. These spirochetes could not be transmitted to naive mice, and some lacked genes on plasmids correlating with infectivity. By 6 months, antibiotic-treated mice no longer tested positive by xenodiagnosis, and cortisone immunosuppression did not alter this result. Nine months after treatment, low levels of spirochete DNA could be detected by real-time PCR in a subset of antibiotic-treated mice. In contrast to sham-treated mice, antibiotic-treated mice did not have culture or histopathologic evidence of persistent infection. These results provide evidence that noninfectious spirochetes can persist for a limited duration after antibiotics but are not associated with
disease in mice.

J Infect Dis. 2002 Nov 15;186(10):1430-7. Epub 2002 Oct 23. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, Non-P.H.S.; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S.

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