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Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of
Lyme disease, and B. turicatae, a neurotropic agent of relapsing fever, are susceptible to vancomycin in vitro, with an MIC of 0.5 microgram/ml. To determine the activity of vancomycin in vivo, particularly in the brain, we infected adult immunocompetent BALB/c and immunodeficient CB-17 scid mice with B. burgdorferi or B. turicatae. The mice were then treated with vancomycin, ceftriaxone as a positive control, or normal saline as a negative control. The effectiveness of treatment was assessed by cultures of blood and brain and other tissues. Ceftriaxone at a dose of 25 mg/kg of body weight administered every 12 h for 7 to 10 days eliminated cultivable B. burgdorferi or B. turicatae from all BALB/c or scid mice in the study. Vancomycin at 30 mg/kg administered every 12 h was effective in eliminating infection from immunodeficient mice if treatment was started within 3 days of the onset of infection. If treatment with vancomycin was delayed for 7 days or more, vancomycin failed to eradicate infection with B. burgdorferi or B. turicatae from immunodeficient mice. The failure of vancomycin in eradicating established infections in immunodeficient mice was associated with the persistence of viable spirochetes in the brain during antibiotic treatment.