About this Research Topic
Lyme disease (LD) is the most prevalent tick-borne disease in the United States and Europe. It is becoming a global public health problem and a prototype of an emerging infection. Recent reports from CDC suggest that the number of LD patients each year in the US reach 300,000. LD can lead to various clinical complications typically involving the heart, joints, and even nervous system. Though treatable with antibiotics, certain LD patients are highly resistant, even to intravenous antibiotics. No vaccine is currently available.
LD is caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb). Compelling evidence has suggested that Bb is a very special pathogen with respect to its biology, genetics and pathogenicity. Bb has a segmented genome that consists of a small linear chromosome and 21 linear and circular plasmids. It lacks endotoxin and exotoxins. Bb is highly motile and invasive and has evolved unique mechanisms (e.g., VlsE-mediated antigen variations) to escape host immune attacks and trigger pathogenic immune responses. As a tick pathogen, Bb has developed a sophisticated gene regulation system that allows it to cycle between mammalian and tick hosts to cause the infection.
During the last 20 years, significant progress has been achieved to understand the biology and pathogenicity primarily due to breakthroughs in modern technology, e.g., genome sequencing, transcriptomics (microarray and RNA-Seq), proteomics, establishment of animal models, advances in genetic tools, development of a genome-wide transposon mutant library in context with Tn-Seq, use of cryo-electron microscopy and tomography to study Bb cellular structures as well as live-imaging techniques to study host-pathogen interactions in vivo. With the assistance of these cutting-edge techniques, numerous new virulence factors and genetic regulators have been identified. Now, Bb has emerged as a model organism to understand the biology and pathogenicity of spirochetes and tick-borne pathogens as well. In addition, new research areas are emerging, e.g., RNA biology, tick biology, tick-pathogen interactions, and tick gut microbiome and its interplay with Bb infection. Furthermore, several new vaccine candidates targeted to different hosts are currently under investigation.
This research topic aims to provide an overview of previous studies about Bb genetics, biology, virulence, host-pathogen interactions, tick biology and highlights how this knowledge can contribute to novel control and prevention strategies for tick-borne diseases.
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