12 September 2016

HEALTH - Research Reveals How Lyme Disease Hides From Antibiotics

(cdc.gov, tick lifecyle)
Researchers of the duplicitous Borreliaburgdorferi (B. burgdorferi) bacterium carried by black-legged (deer) ticks and known to cause Lyme disease are learning more about the evasive characteristics of the bacteria and how it reacts once transmitted from tick to human.

The hope is that continued research may lead to the development of better drugs to tackle Lyme disease.

Lyme disease has been on the rise in recent years across North America, transmitted by ticks carried by migratory birds. Once thought of as a rare disease caught in the deep woods has evolved into a rash of celebrities reporting of diagnosis and those reporting to live with chronic Lyme disease (what Lyme disease, often undetected and untreated, can becomes contracted in their urban backyards.

Common symptoms include skin rash, severe fatigue, motor skill impairment, chronic headaches/migraines, numbness or tingling, swollen lymph nodes, fever and chills, as well as weakness and spasms.

Many of the symptoms mimic those suffered by persons living with Parkinson’s disease, Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and multiple sclerosis (MS) – making it even more difficult to provide an accurate diagnosis.

Lyme sufferers across North America have been highly critical of the medical communities on both sides of the border for what they feel is ‘archaic and inaccurate testing.'

Many sufferers feel they have slipped through the cracks and are fated to living with a debilitating illness due to misdiagnosis or ineffective treatment (long-term antibiotic use is a preferred method of treatment, which is controversial among medical professionals).

But research is ongoing to help science understand how the mysterious bacterium that causes Lyme disease actually works and travels throughout the human body with speed and ease, with hopes to learn how to stop it or treat it better.

According to a recent study published in Cell Reports, the bacterium uses “an adhesive protein on its surface to grab like a hook onto the endothelial cells that line blood vessels, attaching and detaching rapidly as it migrates to its destination."

Lead report author, Rhodaba Ebady from the University of Toronto said: “This mechanism is how the bacteria can overcome the fast flow of blood and avoid getting swept away.”

In an effort to better observe how the bacterium travel to hard-to-reach tissues, she and her team duplicated conditions inside blood vessels by using human endothelial cells in the lab, studying the bacteria as it carried green fluorescent protein moved across cells in real time.

These researchers discovered that the bacterium relied on a protein called BBK32 to adhere to the endothelial cells, assisting the bacteria much like a bungee cord to move out of the bloodstream and into the surrounding tissue.

This mechanism, according to the research team, works much the same way as leukocytes do (pathogen-fighting white blood cells).

Ebady and her team, through further research, hope that by studying the BBK32 protein they may better discover how bacteria target specific endothelial cells hide in tissues; this could lead to the development of drugs that target the BBK32 to prevent or slow down the spread of Lyme disease.

By Lindsay Seewalt
Lindsay is an experienced journalist and mother of three whose heart and home is always open to a four-legged friend. With her Corgi, Angie, as household editor-in-chief, Lindsay gives back to the animal planet through the written word on anything and all ado about pets. She is passionate about topics regarding animal welfare and responsible pet ownership, which she aims to instill in both her readers and children to be compassionate animal lovers who are conscious and considerate that furry friends around the globe deserve a voice.

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