Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, was first isolated in 1982 by Willy Burgdorfer, Ph.D., a zoologist and microbiologist at NIAID Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton, Montana. Today, four NIAID laboratories, including three at RML, continue to study Lyme disease in hopes of developing new treatments, diagnostics, and prevention strategies against the disease.
Adriana Marques, M.D., leads a research program that aims to advance scientific knowledge of Lyme disease and to translate these advances into clinical practice. Dr. Marques and her team study patients with Lyme disease to improve understanding of the laboratory diagnosis, clinical manifestations, and immunological responses associated with B. burgdorferi infection.
The Clinical Studies Unit also investigates the cause of Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. STARI is a rash similar to that of Lyme disease and occurs in people residing in the southeastern and south-central United States. It is associated with the bite of the lone star tick.
Read more information about the Clinical Studies Unit.
Participate in Lyme disease and STARI studies at NIAID.
Tom Schwan, Ph.D., leads a program that investigates bacterial pathogens transmitted by blood-feeding ticks. It studies the Lyme disease spirochete, B. burgdorferi, and a relapsing fever spirochete, B. hermsii, in live colonies of ticks to elucidate factors that contribute to the infection of these bacteria in ticks and to their biological transmission when ticks feed.
Major areas of research include
Read more information about the Medical Entomology Section.
Frank Gherardini, Ph.D., oversees research programs looking at the physiology, biochemistry, gene regulation, and pathogenesis of B. burgdorferi. This infectious agent faces several environmental and immunological challenges during its infective cycle and must adapt by altering, or regulating, gene expression.
Analysis of the B. burgdorferi genome has revealed that there are very few known regulatory proteins in this bacterium. This suggests that, compared to other well-characterized pathogenic bacterial systems, the global regulatory systems operating in B. burgdorferi are relatively simple. Clearly, these systems are required for B. burgdorferi to adapt as it encounters very different environments during transfer from an animal reservoir to the tick and then to a human host.
Read more information about the Gene Regulation Section.
Patricia Rosa, Ph.D., leads a research program that seeks to elucidate the underlying mechanisms of adaptation and variation in B. burgdorferi and the roles of these mechanisms in the infectious cycle of the bacteria.
The following is known about the infectious cycle of B. burgdorferi:
This cycle suggests that B. burgdorferi responds to environmental cues to adapt to and move between the tick vector and mammalian host. Recent experiments document modulation of spirochetal outer-surface proteins in response to environmental conditions and reinforce this hypothesis.
Read more information about the Molecular Genetics Section.
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Last Updated March 08, 2011