Use of host lipids by the Lyme disease spirochete may lead to biomarkers
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in North America and Europe, however, current biomarkers inconsistently detect the disease. In this issue of the JCI, Gwynne et al. revealed how the Lyme disease agent Borrelia burgdorferi relies on host lipids for growth. The authors used a murine model to show that B. burgdorferi infection led to the production of antibodies against phospholipids, possibly as a consequence of incorporation into the spirochete membrane. Antibodies were induced against phosphatidic acid, phosphatidylcholine, and phosphatidylserine. Notably, no antibodies against cardiolipin were found, distinguishing Lyme disease from syphilis and some other diseases. Sera samples from patients with Lyme disease suggested that these antibodies may help diagnose B. burgdorferi infection and that antibody titers may effectively indicate the response to treatment. These findings suggest that B. burgdorferi–induced anti-lipid antibodies, in conjunction with a careful clinical assessment, may aid in the diagnosis of Lyme disease.