Residual brain infection in relapsing-fever borreliosis

Diego Cadavid, Marie Sondey, Edwin Garcia, Catherine L. Lawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background. Neurological involvement is common in the spirochetal infection relapsing fever (RF) in both humans and experimental animals. RF is best known for antigenic variation caused by the sequential expression of variable outer membrane lipoproteins of 2 sizes, variable small (Vsp) and variable large (VIp) proteins. Less understood is the persistence of RF borreliae in the brain after they are cleared from the blood, referred to as residual brain infection (RBI). Our goal was to investigate the phenomenon of RBI in RF. Methods. We studied RBI in immunocompetent mice by culturing blood and perfused brain samples 1 month after intraperitoneal inoculation with Borrelia turicatae serotype 1 (Bt1). Mice deficient in Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2-/-) or in B and T cells (scid) were included for comparison. Results. All scid mice had persistent infection in blood and brain. RBI was found in 3 (19%) of 16 immunocompetent and TLR2-/- mice. RBI was caused by either persistence of the original serotype (Bt1) or newly emerged Vsp (n = 1, renamed Bt3) or Vlp serotypes. The Vsp of Bt1 (Vspl) and Bt3 (Vsp3) were 75% identical. Conclusions. RBI in RF is relatively frequent and can occur by persistence of the original or newly emerged serotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1451-1458
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Infectious Diseases


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