In situ-perfused rat livers were infused with a single dose of 1.5 x 10(7) radiolabeled borreliae. Significant (P < 0.00005) differences in the liver uptake of the agents of
Lyme borreliosis, Borrelia burgdorferi IRS, Borrelia afzelii VS461, and Borrelia garinii PBi, and that of the agents of relapsing fever, Borrelia hermsii, Borrelia parkeri, and Borrelia turicatae, were observed. The liver uptakes ranged between 65.9% for B. burgdorferi IRS and 40.5% for B. turicatae. Neither relapsing fever nor
Lyme disease borreliae were recovered from infected livers when the livers were cultured in Barbour-Stoenner-Kelly II medium. The in vitro uptake of B. burgdorferi IRS by isolated rat Kupffer cells was rapid, and within 30 min of the infection, large intracellular aggregates of amorphous material were detectable by immunofluorescence with specific anti-B. burgdorferi antibody. The reculturing of B. burgdorferi IRS from Kupffer cells incubated for 24 h in RPMI medium before inoculation with bacteria was negative. The results obtained in this study indicated that borreliae are efficiently taken up and killed by rat hepatic macrophages in the absence of serum factors.