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Lyme Disease Bacterium Collaborates with Accomplices to Evade Immune System

Warning: the bacterium behind Lyme disease is collaborating with its accomplices to construct a gene that can defeat your immune defenses. That’s what researchers investigating the evolution of a crucial gene in Borrelia burgdorferi found when they compared bacteria found in ticks gathered across the country. The study was recently published on the mBio website.

The gene, ospC, encodes one of the few antigens against which mammals can develop protective immunity. A close look at the sequences of the gene and surrounding sequences revealed that lateral gene transfer has played a major role in shaping the gene and that by acquiring a complete or large part of a novel ospC gene, a B. burgdorferi strain could assume a new identity, enabling it to elude the immune defenses of its human host.

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