Detection of attenuated, noninfectious spirochetes in Borrelia burgdorferi-infected mice after antibiotic treatment.

 J Infect Dis. 2002 Nov 15;186,10:1430-7. Epub 2002 Oct 23. Detection of attenuated, 
noninfectious spirochetes in Borrelia burgdorferi-infected mice after antibiotic treatment.
Bockenstedt LK, Mao J, Hodzic E, Barthold SW, Fish D.
Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 
06520-8031, USA. linda.bockenstedt@yale.edu
Xenodiagnosis by ticks was used to determine whether spirochetes persist in mice after 1 month 
of antibiotic therapy, Doxycyline and Ceftriaxone, for vectorborne Borrelia burgdorferi
infection. Immunofluorescence and polymerase chain reaction, PCR, were used to show that 
spirochetes could be found in Ixodes scapularis ticks feeding on 4 of 10 antibiotic-treated mice up 
to 3 months after therapy. These spirochetes could not be transmitted to naive mice, and some 
lacked genes on plasmids correlating with infectivity. By 6 months, antibiotic-treated mice no 
longer tested positive by xenodiagnosis, and cortisone immunosuppression did not alter this 
result. Nine months after treatment, low levels of spirochete DNA could be detected by 
real-time PCR in a subset of antibiotic-treated mice. In contrast to sham-treated mice, 
antibiotic-treated mice did not have culture or histopathologic evidence of persistent infection. 
These results provide evidence that noninfectious spirochetes can persist for a limited 
duration after antibiotics but are not associated with disease in mice




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