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Presently, the rhesus macaque is the only nonhuman primate animal model utilized for the study of
Lyme disease. While this animal model closely mimics human
disease, rhesus macaques can harbor the herpes B virus, which is often lethal to humans; macaques also do not express the full complement of immunoglobulin G (IgG) subclasses found in humans. Conversely, baboons contain the full complement of IgG subclasses and do not harbor the herpes B virus. For these reasons, baboons have been increasingly utilized as the basis for models of infectious diseases and studies assessing the safety and immunogenicity of new vaccines. Here we analyzed the capability of baboons to become infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent of
Lyme disease. Combined culture and PCR analyses of tick- and syringe-infected animals indicated that baboons are a sufficient host for B. burgdorferi. Analysis of the antibody responses in infected baboons over a 48-week period revealed that antibodies are generated early during infection against many borrelial antigens, including the various OspE, OspF, and Elp paralogs that are encoded on the ubiquitous 32-kb circular plasmids (cp32s). By using the baboon sera generated by experimental infection it was determined that a combination of two cp32-encoded lipoproteins, OspE and ElpB1, resulted in highly specific and sensitive detection of B. burgdorferi infection. An expanded analysis, which included 39 different human
Lyme disease patients, revealed that a combination of the OspE and ElpB1 lipoproteins could be the basis for a new serodiagnostic assay for
Lyme disease. Importantly, this novel serodiagnostic test would be useful independent of prior OspA vaccination status.