How NIAID Is Addressing Lyme Disease

NIAID has a long-standing commitment to conduct research on Lyme borreliosis, or Lyme disease, beginning more than 20 years ago when the cause of the disease was not yet known. In 1981, NIAID-funded research efforts resulted in identifying Borrelia burgdorferi, a spiral-shaped bacterium, or spirochete, as the causative agent of Lyme disease (Science 216: 1317, 1982). Since then, basic and clinical research efforts have been expanded in scope to address many different aspects of this infectious disease.

The major goals of the NIAID Lyme Disease Research Program are to develop better means of diagnosing, treating, and preventing this disease. To accomplish these objectives, the NIAID Lyme disease research portfolio includes a broad range of activities designed to increase our understanding of this disease. They include systematic studies on

  • Animal models of disease
  • Microbial physiology
  • Molecular, genetic, and cellular mechanisms of pathogenesis
  • Mechanisms of protective immunity
  • Vectors, as well as vector competency, and their influence on the transmission of disease
  • Efficacy of different modes of antibiotic therapy
  • Development of more sensitive and reliable diagnostic tests for both early and late Lyme disease

Ongoing Research

The current NIAID Lyme disease research portfolio is extensive and diverse. It encompasses basic and clinical research studies conducted by extramural and intramural investigators, including intramural scientists at NIAID Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana, as well as at NIAID laboratories in Bethesda, Maryland. Ongoing activities by NIAID intramural scientists can be found at the Division of Intramural Research.

The overarching goals of the NIAID Lyme disease research program are to develop better methods of diagnosing, treating, and preventing this disease in humans. To accomplish these objectives, the NIAID Lyme disease research portfolio includes a broad range of activities focusing on the pathogen, the vector, and the vertebrate host. These activities are conducted by extramural and intramural investigators and span basic science through human clinical research studies. Many of these projects are investigator-initiated efforts, but several are the result of targeted grant and small business initiatives that NIAID has used to actively grow the Lyme disease research portfolio to address high priority areas such as persistence of infection after antibiotic treatment and the development of both early- and late-stage diagnostics. Read more about the current efforts in Lyme Diseases research.

Content last reviewed on June 16, 2015