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Scientists Reveal Quirky Feature of Lyme Disease Bacteria

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Unlike most organisms, they don't need iron, but they crave manganese. Scientists have confirmed that the pathogen that causes Lyme Disease—unlike any other known organism—can exist without iron, a metal that all other life needs to make proteins and enzymes. Instead of iron, the bacteria substitute manganese to make an essential enzyme, thus eluding immune system defenses that protect the body by starving pathogens of iron.

To cause disease, Borrelia burgdorferi requires unusually high levels of manganese, scientists at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and the University of Texas reported. Their study, published March 22, 2013, in The Journal of Biological Chemistry, may explain some mysteries about why Lyme Disease is slow-growing and hard to detect and treat. The findings also open the door to search for new therapies to thwart the bacterium by targeting manganese.

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Comments (1)

  1. In this "source" (http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=7545&tid=3622&cid=164869). The statement “The only therapy for Lyme Disease right now are antibiotics like penicillin” is incorrect, or at least needs clarification. Doxycycline is frequently used in treatment of Lyme disease, as well as for prophylaxis against Lyme after the bite of a deer tick in humans and dogs. CDC states "Antibiotics commonly used for oral treatment include doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil. Patients with certain neurological or cardiac forms of illness may require intravenous treatment with drugs such as ceftriaxone or penicillin." (http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/Treatment/)

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