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European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology
Authors: E. Sapi, K. Gupta, K. Wawrzeniak, G. Gaur, J. Torres, K. Filush, A. Melillo and B. Zelger

Our research group has recently shown that Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease bacterium, is capable of forming biofilms in Borrelia-infected human skin lesions called Borrelia lymphocytoma (BL). Biofilm structures often contain multiple organisms in a symbiotic relationship, with the goal of providing shelter from environmental stressors such as antimicrobial agents. Because multiple co-infections are common in Lyme disease, the main questions of this study were whether BL tissues contained other pathogenic species and/or whether there is any co-existence with Borrelia biofilms. Recent reports suggested Chlamydia-like organisms in ticks and Borrelia-infected human skin tissues; therefore, Chlamydia-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analyses were performed in Borrelia-positive BL tissues. Analyses of the sequence of the positive PCR bands revealed that Chlamydia spp. DNAs are indeed present in these tissues, and their sequences have the best identity match to Chlamydophila pneumoniae and Chlamydia trachomatis. Fluorescent immunohistochemical and in situ hybridization methods demonstrated the presence of Chlamydia antigen and DNA in 84% of Borrelia biofilms. Confocal microscopy revealed that Chlamydia locates in the center of Borrelia biofilms, and together, they form a well-organized mixed pathogenic structure. In summary, our study is the first to show BorreliaChlamydia mixed biofilms in infected human skin tissues, which raises the questions of whether these human pathogens have developed a symbiotic relationship for their mutual survival.

Open access
European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology
Authors: E. Sapi, K. Balasubramanian, A. Poruri, J. S. Maghsoudlou, K. M. Socarras, A. V. Timmaraju, K. R. Filush, K. Gupta, S. Shaikh, P. A. S. Theophilus, D. F. Luecke, A. MacDonald and B. Zelger

Lyme borreliosis, caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, has grown into a major public health problem. We recently identified a novel morphological form of B. burgdorferi, called biofilm, a structure that is well known to be highly resistant to antibiotics. However, there is no evidence of the existence of Borrelia biofilm in vivo; therefore, the main goal of this study was to determine the presence of Borrelia biofilm in infected human skin tissues. Archived skin biopsy tissues from borrelial lymphocytomas (BL) were reexamined for the presence of B. burgdorferi sensu lato using Borrelia-specific immunohistochemical staining (IHC), fluorescent in situ hybridization, combined fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH)–IHC, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and fluorescent and atomic force microscopy methods. Our morphological and histological analyses showed that significant amounts of Borrelia-positive spirochetes and aggregates exist in the BL tissues. Analyzing structures positive for Borrelia showed that aggregates, but not spirochetes, expressed biofilm markers such as protective layers of different mucopolysaccharides, especially alginate. Atomic force microscopy revealed additional hallmark biofilm features of the Borrelia/alginate-positive aggregates such as inside channels and surface protrusions. In summary, this is the first study that demonstrates the presence of Borrelia biofilm in human infected skin tissues.

Open access