When the tick-borne bacterium that causes Lyme disease lacks a specific protein that responds to an incoming meal of blood, it is unable to be transmitted from the tick to a new animal host, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found. The findings suggest that the protein, called BptA, is essential for the bacterium Borrelia burgdorfei (Bb) to survive in the gut of its tick host and may offer a potential new target for agents aimed at eradicating Lyme disease.
Results of the multisite study are currently online and will appear in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The bacterium that causes Lyme disease lives in infected mammals and in the midgut of ticks. When an infected tick bites an animal or a human, the bacteria are transmitted to the new host. Infection causes fever, malaise, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint aches, and a characteristic "bulls-eye" rash that surrounds the site of infection.
In the study, researchers genetically altered the Bb bacterium to make a "knockout" form that lacked a gene that codes for the protein BptA. Without the protein, bacteria were unable to utilize the blood on which the tick feeds when it bites a victim.
Amanda Siegfried | EurekAlert!
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