In the lab, the group at UC Irvine exposed white-footed mice to various strains of B. burgdorferi and tracked the course of the infection. All the B. burgdorferi strains infected the white-footed mice, but some strains managed to grow to high densities in various mouse tissues while others did not.
Barbour says the immune reactions the mice mounted against the various strains explain these discrepancies: the greater the immune response, the fewer bacteria found in a mouse's tissues and vice-versa. Importantly, the strains that grew to greatest densities within the mice are also the strains that are most prevalent in the wild.
When they looked at the immune reaction to individual B. burgdorferi proteins the authors found a complex interplay of reactivities. The mice reacted in different degrees to the various proteins present in a single bacterial strain, which could explain why such a great diversity of B. burgdorferi strains are sustained in the wild, say the authors.
Barbour says knowing more about how the white-footed mouse reacts to all the various B. burgdorferi strains and immunogenic proteins will help vaccine developers select the best proteins to put in a vaccine. "The best candidate for the mouse vaccine is something that's the same in all the [B. burgdorferi] strains," he says.
Once a vaccine for the white-footed mouse is developed, it will need to be tested by exposing immunized mice to a selected set of diverse B. burgdorferi strains, says Barbour, and the results of this study can help make that selection. "If we can find five that are representative, that would be an advantage."
This study, he says, "is going to provide a foundation for future studies in understanding the
|Contact: Jim Sliwa|
American Society for Microbiology