New study shows Lyme disease alters immune system

New study shows Lyme disease alters immune system
© iStock/Sjo

A new study has shown that the bacteria that causes Lyme disease alters the immune system, causing it to attack the healthy cells in the human body.

The bacteria that causes Lyme disease – Borrelia burgdorferi – has been shown to stop communication between dendritic cells and T-cells, which normally signals for a response against foreign invaders.

The study, carried out by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center, has demonstrated that the bacteria alters dendritic cells, which normally present proteins from pathogens such as bacteria and viruses, known as antigens, to immune system T-cells, which then signals an immune response against any viruses or infections.

The study has been published in Frontiers in Medicine.

Lyme disease and autoimmune conditions

A Lyme disease infection is known to cause a weak immune system. To understand how this happens, the researchers isolated dendritic cells from healthy study participants and exposed them to Borrelia burgdorferi, finding that the bacterial infection causes receptor sites on the surface of dendritic cells, known as HLA-DRs, to mature and become active. Normally, these HLA-DRs cells would present antigens to killer T-cells, the immune system agents that remove invaders from the body.

The researchers believe that when the HLA-DRs interact with Borrelia burgdorferi, they are structurally changed and keep the dendritic cells from “marking” the bacterial proteins as foreign, which leads to the dendritic cells attracting T-cells, but instead of attacking the Lyme disease bacteria, instead attacks the healthy cells.

Senior author Mark Soloski, PhD, co-director for basic research at the centre, and professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said: “We believe these observations are relevant not only to how Borrelia burgdorferi disrupts the immune system but other infections as well. Antibodies that react with a person’s own tissues or organs have been reported in patients with infections, including COVID-19.”

The researchers say that if a person has a genetic predisposition to autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, infection by Borrelia burgdorferi may trigger their development. They highlight that further research on HLA-DR and dendritic cell response to Borrelia burgdorferi could help to develop new treatments for Lyme disease and contribute to a better understanding of how autoimmune diseases may be caused.

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    • Hi, See my other long comment. Gluten free etc. Gluten is in wheat/barley/rye..oats/corn/rice. Rice is low in gluten. Wild rice has no gluten…is a grass. Gluten may hurt the gut lining so food doesn’t digest/absorb…then cells are not made right to work right. Low sunlight may trigger gluten issues.

      • I have chronic Lymes for over 20 yrs. I did not have the usual symptoms, so I blamed my tiredness, over sick feeling on work, children, ect, Finally when I did get blood work, the antibodies that came up were reported that Ive had Lymes, It had to be a bout 6 months of symptoms before the test. The usual antibodies were taken as well. since then Ive have Kidney issues, degenerative joint, trigeminal neurology,lichen schlerosis and antiphoslipid syndrome and atypical hives. Ive truly suffered and I am so afraid of the covid vaccine. AI dont know if I should have it, but I cannot imagine staying home the rest of my life.

        • Our histories sound similar. I have had Lyme and Babesia 21 years and just gone done with my Lyme meds 9 months ago.

          I got my first Moderna vaccine on 4/16 of this year and I have been fine and I am looking forward to my next shot on 5/4/21.

          I was afraid and discovered I what everyone else has discovered- that these Covid vaccines are extremely safe, even for chronic Lymies like us.

          Hope this helps some!
          Michael Murphy

          Northern Vermont

  1. I was diagnosed with Lyme in 1995 10 years after exposure to the disease. It did get in my brain and spinal fluid. A couple weeks ago I was diagnosed with ” your immune system is not working. ” I had Prevnar 13 vax. 2years in a row and built no antibodies to this vax. I did have the Moderna and asked my Rheumatologist if I should get the second shot and he said yes. I had a serious reaction to it. I woke up the next morning and fell to the floor so I thought I should try to crawl and could not get on my knees, wasn’t happening kept falling and hurt my myself. Had to belly crawl to the living room made it to the chair, needed a cup of coffee but no one to make it. Later that day I called a friend because I was shaking pretty bad and had a fever of 101.8 so I took some Tylenol and went to bed. Next morning the same thing happened so I called my pharmacist to report the reaction and she wrote every little thing that happened and did report it to Modern a. I will be tested for antibodies on July 20th. Don’t expect to have any. I think my immune system hasn’t been working for years. Go to a Rheumatologist although there is no treatment for me. What to do, I don’t know. Be safe and well!


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