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Cytokine responses in human Lyme borreliosis : The role of T helper 1-like immunity and aspects of gender and co-exposure in relation to disease course

by Jarefors, Sara

Abstract (Summary)
Lyme borreliosis was first described some 30 years ago in the USA. Today, it is the most common vector borne disease in Europe and the USA. The disease can have multiple stages and symptoms can manifest from various parts of the body; joints, skin heart and nervous system. In Europe, neuroborreliosis is the most frequent late stage diagnosis. Although Lyme borreliosis is treatable with antibiotics and the causative spirochete has not been shown to be resistant to drugs, some patients do not recover completely. They have persistent symptoms and are diagnosed with chronic or persistent Lyme borreliosis. The mechanism behind the lingering symptoms is unclear but might be due to tissue damage caused by the immune system. The aim of this thesis was to study the immunological differences between patients with different outcome of Lyme borreliosis, i.e. chronic, subacute and asymptomatic, and various factors that might influence the course of the disease.The Borrelia-specific IFN-? and IL-4 secretion was detected in blood and cerebrospinal fluid from patients with chronic and subacute neuroborreliosis during the course of the disease. Blood samples were also obtained from patients with erythema migrans (EM) and acrodermatitis chronicum atrophicans. An early increase of IFN-? with a later switch to an IL-4 response was observed in patients with a subacute disease course whereas the IFN-? secretion continued to be elevated in chronic patients.The Borrelia-specific Th1-response was further investigated in chronic, subacute and asymptomatic individuals by studying the expression of the Th1-marker IL-12R?2, on a protein and mRNA level. The cytokine secretion and Foxp3, a marker for regulatory T-cells, were also analyzed. Chronic patients had a lower IL-12R?2 expression on CD8+ T-cells and a lower number of Borrelia-specific IFN-? secreting cells compared to asymptomatic individuals. Chronic patients also displayed a higher expression of Borrelia-specific Foxp3 than healthy controls.The conclusions for these tow studies were that a strong Th1-response early in the infection with a later switch to a Th2-response is beneficiary whereas a slow or weak Th1-response corresponds to a prolonged disease course.The influence of a previous infection with another pathogen, seen to suppress the immune response in animals, and the possible gender difference in immune response was also investigated. Patients with EM were screened for antibodies to Anaplasma phagocytophilum (Ap) as a sign of a previous exposure to these tick-borne bacteria. Blood lymphocytes from Ap seronegative, Ap seropositive and healthy controls were stimulated with Borrelia antigen and the secretion of IL-4, IL-5, IL-12, IL-13 and IFN-? was detected by ELISPOT. Ap seropositive patients had a lower number of cells responding with IL-12 secretion compared to the other groups which might indicate an inhibited Th1-response.Reinfections with Lyme borreliosis was in a previous study, done by Bennet et al, found to be more frequent in postmenopausal women than in men. To investigate if there was an immunological explanation to the gender discrepancy, blood lymphocytes from individuals reinfected with Lyme borreliosis and individuals infected only once were stimulated with various antigens. The cytokine secretion was detected by ELISPOT, ELISA and Immulite. There were no differences between reinfected and single infected individuals. However, women, regardless of times infected, displayed a Th2-derived and anti-inflammatory spontaneous immune response compared to men.A previous infection with the bacteria Ap might possibly have a long term effect on the immune system and might be of disadvantage when mounting a Th1-response to a Borrelia infection. Also, the Th2-derived response displayed by postmenopausal women could indicate why more women than men get reinfected with Borrelia burgdorferi.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Linköpings universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:MEDICINE; Microbiology, immunology, infectious diseases; Immunology; Clinical immunology; Borrelia; human granulocytic anaplasmosis; cytokine; immunology; chronic

ISBN:91-85497-73-8

Date of Publication:01/01/2006

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