Xenodiagnosis by ticks was used to determine whether spirochetes persist in mice after 1 month of antibiotic therapy 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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health