multiplies in the
body, it releases a cellular component known as peptidoglycan that can produce
severe inflammatory reactions.
The lead author of
the study was Dr. Brandon L. Jutras, PhD, who is an Assistant Professor in the
Department of Biochemistry, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, at
Virginia Tech, USA.
The study was
carried out with active collaboration from Professor Allen C. Steere, MD, who
is Director of Translational Research, Rheumatology Unit at Massachusetts
General Hospital and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston,
Massachusetts, USA. More importantly, Professor Steere discovered and named
Lyme disease in 1975.
The study, which
has been published in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)
, is the fruit of
four years of painstaking research that began when Jutras was a postdoctoral
fellow in the lab of Dr. Christine Jacobs-Wagner, PhD, who is a Professor in
the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis at Yale School of Medicine, New Haven,
- Clinical samples were obtained from confirmed Lyme
- Patients were refractory to oral and/or intravenous
- Peptidoglycan was present in the synovial fluids of
- Peptidoglycan was purified from other bacterial
- Mouse model was used to test if arthritis could be
induced by peptidoglycan alone
is responsible for Lyme arthritis in late-stage Lyme disease
was detected in the synovial fluid of affected joints in patients with
Lyme arthritis, who did not have any active infection
- In the
mouse model, injection of purified peptidoglycan caused severe joint
inflammation within 24 hours, proving that peptidoglycan can cause
- This rapid
inflammatory reaction could arise from the unique molecular structure of
peptidoglycan in the bacterium B. burgdorferi
With reference to
the study findings, Jutras says: "We are
interested in understanding everything associated with how patients respond,
how we can prevent that response, and how we could possibly intervene with
blocking therapies or therapies that eliminate the molecule entirely."
Implications of the StudyThe study
findings will help to develop better techniques to diagnose Lyme disease and
in patients with non-specific symptoms, by detecting
peptidoglycan in synovial fluid.
being planned to better understand the chemical structure of peptidoglycan,
which will help to elucidate how the molecule persists in the body and produces
other manifestations of Lyme disease. This will be followed by developing
therapeutic strategies to target and destroy the peptidoglycan molecule. This
will resolve the symptoms and help in the recovery of patients with Lyme
Jutras concludes: "This discovery will help researchers
improve diagnostic tests and may lead to new treatment options for patients
suffering from Lyme arthritis."
He adds: "This is an important finding, and we think that it has major
implications for many manifestations of Lyme disease, not just Lyme arthritis."
- Borrelia burgdorferi peptidoglycan is a persistent antigen in patients with Lyme arthritis - (https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/06/11/1904170116)