Lyme Borreliosis: Is there a preexisting (natural) variation in antimicrobial susceptibility among Borrelia burgdorferi strains?


  • Emir Hodzic Real-Time PCR Research and Diagnostics Core Facility, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis



Borrelia burgdorferi, antibiotics, persistence, antimicrobial resistance, antimicrobial tolerance, ticks, small mammals


The development of antibiotics changed the world of medicine and has saved countless human and animal lives. Bacterial resistance/tolerance to antibiotics have spread silently across the world and has emerged as a major public health concern. The recent emergence of pan-resistant bacteria can overcome virtually any antibiotic and poses a major problem for their successful control. Selection for antibiotic resistance may take place where an antibiotic is present: in the skin, gut, and other tissues of humans and animals and in the environment. Borrelia burgdorferi, the etiological agents of Lyme borreliosis, evades host immunity and establishes persistent infections in its mammalian hosts. The persistent infection poses a challenge to the effective antibiotic treatment, as demonstrated in various animal models. An increasingly heterogeneous subpopulation of replicatively attenuated spirochetes arises following treatment, and these persistent antimicrobial tolerant/resistant spirochetes are non-cultivable. The non-cultivable spirochetes resurge in multiple tissues at 12 months after treatment, with B. burgdorferi-specific DNA copy levels nearly equivalent to those found in shame-treated experimental animals. These attenuated spirochetes remain viable, but divide slowly, thereby being tolerant to antibiotics. Despite the continued non-cultivable state, RNA transcription of multiple B. burgdorferi genes was detected in host tissues, spirochetes were acquired by xenodiagnostic ticks, and spirochetal forms could be visualized within ticks and mouse tissues. A number of host cytokines were up- or down-regulated in tissues of both shame- and antibiotic-treated mice in the absence of histopathology, indicating a lack of host response to the presence of antimicrobial tolerant/resistant spirochetes.




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Author Biography

  • Emir Hodzic, Real-Time PCR Research and Diagnostics Core Facility, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis

    Director, Real-Time PCR Research & Diagnostics Core Facility
    School of Veterinary Medicine
    University of California, Davis


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Lyme Borreliosis: Is there a preexisting (natural) variation in antimicrobial susceptibility among Borrelia burgdorferi strains?


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Lyme Borreliosis: Is there a preexisting (natural) variation in antimicrobial susceptibility among Borrelia burgdorferi strains?. Biomol Biomed [Internet]. 2015 Jul. 8 [cited 2024 Jul. 22];15(3):1-13. Available from: