Northeastern University researchers have found that the badterium that causes Lyme disease forms formant persister cells, which are known to evade antibiotics. This significant finding, they said, could help explain why it’s so difficult to treat the infection in some patients.
“It hasn’t been entirely clear why it’s difficult to treat the pathogen with antibiotics since there has been no resistance reported for the causative agent of the disease,” explained University Distinguished Professor Kim Lewis, who led the Northeastern research team.
In other chronic infections, Lewis’ lab has tracked the resistance to antibiotic therapy to the presence of persister cells–which are drug-tolerant, dormant variants of regular cells. These persister cells are exactly what they’ve identified here in Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
The researchers have also reported two approaches–one of them quite promising–to eradicate Lyme disease, as well as potentially other nasty infections.
Lewis and his colleagues presented their findings in a paper published online last week in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. He co-authored the paper with Northeastern doctoral students Bijaya Sharma and Autumn Brown, both PhD’16; recent graduate Nicole Matluck, S’15, who received her Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Neuroscience; and Linden T. Hu, a professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts University.
The research was supported by grants from the Lyme Research Alliance and the National Institutes of Health.