Lyme disease: Drug could eradicate the bacterium behind illness

Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria

Microscopic picture of Borrelia burgdorferi micro organism

Cultura Artistic RF/Alamy

The invention {that a} chemical is lethal to the bacterium that causes Lyme illness however innocent to animals may enable the illness to be eradicated within the wild.

“Lyme illness is well-positioned to be eradicated,” says Kim Lewis at Northeastern College in Boston. “We’re gearing up, the primary area trial will probably be subsequent summer time.”

Lyme illness is brought on by a bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorferi that lurks in wild mice. Ticks that feed on the mice turn into contaminated and might infect different animals, together with folks.

The illness is a rising downside in North America, Europe and Asia. It initially causes a attribute “bullseye” rash and a flu-like sickness. If untreated, it may well result in severe long-term issues, akin to Lyme arthritis.

At current, it’s handled with antibiotics akin to doxycycline that kill a variety of micro organism. Nonetheless, this disrupts the intestine microbiome, inflicting signs akin to diarrhoea, and may also result in extra antibiotic resistance.

Now, Lewis’s crew has discovered {that a} compound known as hygromycin A is totally innocent to animals and has little impact on most micro organism, however is extraordinarily lethal to spirochaete micro organism akin to B. burgdorferi.

Spirochaete micro organism have a corkscrew form that allows them to burrow into tissues. In addition they trigger illnesses akin to syphilis, says Lewis. “They’re fairly nasty pathogens.”

In animal assessments, the crew didn’t observe any dangerous results of hygromycin irrespective of how excessive the dose. “It’s unusually secure,” says Lewis.

An organization known as FlightPath is now submitting within the US for the preliminary go-ahead required earlier than the chemical may be examined in folks.

Hygromycin may additionally probably be used as a therapy for syphilis, significantly as a result of this bacterial an infection is evolving resistance to straightforward remedies.

What’s extra, Lewis’s crew has proven that feeding baits laced with hygromycin to mice can clear B. burgdorferi infections. In principle, dropping such baits may eradicate Lyme illness from entire areas and even complete nations.

A area trial achieved a decade in the past with doxycycline baits was profitable, says Lewis. However the widespread use of the chemical for this goal is undesirable as a result of it may result in many microbes evolving antibiotic resistance.

In contrast, Lewis’s research counsel this can be very tough for B. burgdorferi to evolve resistance to hygromycin. The chemical resembles important vitamins that spirochaetes can’t make themselves and take up utilizing a selected transporter, so mutations that block the take-up of hygromycin would additionally deprive spirochaetes of those vitamins.

Lewis says his crew isn’t the primary to find the worth of hygromycin. It was studied as a possible therapy for a pig illness within the Nineteen Eighties however deserted.

Vaccines in opposition to Lyme illness are additionally being developed, however eradicating the illness can be a good higher choice.

Journal reference: Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2021.09.011

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