Pathogen and host response dynamics in a mouse model of Borrelia hermsii relapsing fever

Christopher D. Crowder, Arash Ghalyanchi Langeroudi, Azadeh Shojaee Estabragh, Eric R.G. Lewis, Renee A. Marcsisin, Alan G. Barbour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Most Borrelia species that cause tick-borne relapsing fever utilize rodents as their natural reservoirs, and for decades laboratory-bred rodents have served as informative experimental models for the disease. However, while there has much progress in understanding the pathogenetic mechanisms, including antigenic variation, of the pathogen, the host side of the equation has been neglected. Using different approaches, we studied, in immunocompetent inbred mice, the dynamics of infection with and host responses to North American relapsing fever agent B. hermsii. The spirochete's generation time in blood of infected mice was between 4-5 h and, after a delay, was matched in rate by the increase of specific agglutinating antibodies in response to the infection. After initiating serotype cells were cleared by antibodies, the surviving spirochetes were a different serotype and, as a population, grew more slowly. The retardation was attributable to the host response and not an inherently slower growth rate. The innate responses at infection peak and immediate aftermath were characterized by elevations of both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Immunodeficient mice had higher spirochete burdens and severe anemia, which was accounted for by aggregation of erythrocytes by spirochetes and their partially reversible sequestration in greatly enlarged spleens and elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19
JournalVeterinary Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Antigenic variation
  • Mus musculus
  • Ornithodoros
  • Spirochete
  • Tick-borne disease
  • Zoonosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Veterinary


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