Drug treatment for Lyme disease could lead to its eradication

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By Michael Le Page

Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria

Microscopic representation of Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria

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The find that a chemic is deadly to the bacterium that causes Lyme disease but harmless to animals mightiness let the illness to beryllium eradicated successful the wild.

“Lyme illness is well-positioned to beryllium eradicated,” says Kim Lewis astatine Northeastern University successful Boston. “We are gearing up, the archetypal tract proceedings volition beryllium adjacent summer.”

Lyme illness is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi that lurks successful chaotic mice. Ticks that provender connected the mice go infected and tin infect different animals, including people.

The illness is simply a growing occupation successful North America, Europe and Asia. It initially causes a diagnostic “bullseye” rash and a flu-like illness. If untreated, it tin pb to superior semipermanent problems, specified arsenic Lyme arthritis.

At present, it is treated with antibiotics specified arsenic doxycycline that termination a wide scope of bacteria. However, this disrupts the gut microbiome, causing symptoms specified arsenic diarrhoea, and tin besides pb to much antibiotic resistance.

Now, Lewis’s squad has recovered that a compound called hygromycin A is wholly harmless to animals and has small effect connected astir bacteria, but is highly deadly to spirochaete bacteria specified arsenic B. burgdorferi.

Spirochaete bacteria person a corkscrew signifier that enables them to burrow into tissues. They besides origin diseases specified arsenic syphilis, says Lewis. “They are beauteous nasty pathogens.”

In carnal tests, the squad didn’t observe immoderate harmful effects of hygromycin nary substance however precocious the dose. “It is unusually safe,” says Lewis.

A institution called FlightPath is present filing successful the US for the archetypal go-ahead required earlier the chemic tin beryllium tested successful people.

Hygromycin could besides perchance beryllium utilized arsenic a attraction for syphilis, peculiarly due to the fact that this bacterial corruption is evolving absorption to modular treatments.

What’s more, Lewis’s squad has shown that feeding baits laced with hygromycin to mice tin wide B. burgdorferi infections. In theory, dropping specified baits could eradicate Lyme illness from full areas oregon adjacent full countries.

A tract proceedings done a decennary agone with doxycycline baits was successful, says Lewis. But the wide usage of the chemic for this intent is undesirable due to the fact that it could pb to galore microbes evolving antibiotic resistance.

By contrast, Lewis’s studies suggest it is highly hard for B. burgdorferi to germinate absorption to hygromycin. The chemic resembles indispensable nutrients that spirochaetes cannot marque themselves and instrumentality up utilizing a circumstantial transporter, truthful mutations that artifact the take-up of hygromycin would besides deprive spirochaetes of these nutrients.

Lewis says his squad isn’t the archetypal to observe the worth of hygromycin. It was studied arsenic a imaginable attraction for a pig illness successful the 1980s but abandoned.

Vaccines against Lyme illness are besides being developed, but eradicating the illness would beryllium an adjacent amended option.

Journal reference: Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2021.09.011

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