One of the most frustrating puzzles of Lyme disease is why some people develop debilitating chronic complications despite receiving recommended treatment. Now scientists have developed a new method to explore if these arthritic and neurologic symptoms result from the body's immune system turning against itself. Knowing the answer is key to developing better ways to diagnose Lyme disease, and to treat and possibly prevent its complications.
A report describing this research, led by scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), appears in the December issue of Nature Medicine.
"This finding is a major advance for Lyme disease researchers and their patients," notes Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). "We now have a powerful new tool to investigate what role autoimmune mechanisms play in the development of chronic symptoms associated with Lyme disease. We also can use this strategy to study other infectious and immunologic diseases."
Adriana Marques, M.D., of NIAID's Laboratory of Clinical Investigation, heads one of the Institute's two large studies of chronic Lyme disease and co-authored the new report.
The new technique, developed by Roland Martin, M.D., of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), Richard Simon, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), together with Clemencia Pinilla, Ph.D., of the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, San Diego, was tested on a sample taken from a patient in the NIAID study. The patient has chronic central nervous system disease and a strong immune response against the Lyme agent, Borrelia burgdorferi, in both his spinal fluid and blood. Their technique identified the specific bits of the Lyme agent his T cells recognized when they mounted an immune response against the bacterium. Equally important, it pinpointed candidate self-antigens, snippets of his own cells that mimicked those r
Contact: Laurie K. Doepel
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases