Illustration of a deer tick

Lyme disease presents an ever-increasing burden to the public and the public health system, with an estimated 476,000 cases per year nationwide (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). In addition, many patients continue to suffer pain, fatigue, and brain fog long after being treated for their initial infection.

Knowing how Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, interacts with the immune system is key to understanding how this bacterium establishes infection, disseminates, persists, and as Dr. Lin has shown, how this pathogen survives within multiple host species. The ability of pathogens to infect multiple hosts, i.e., 'host jumping', is a key driver behind many modern-day disease outbreaks.

CspZ, an outer surface protein of this bacterium, binds the host’s immune factor H to downregulate the immune system, thereby enabling survival in sera and promoting early-onset dissemination. Dr. Lin and colleagues have now shown that this protein also facilitates the ability of the pathogen to infect multiple host species. Using a multidisciplinary approach, they further identified that a short motif of only a few amino acids within this protein dictates the host range that this pathogen can infect.

Such findings build a foundation upon which to understand the mechanisms of how the Lyme disease bacteria, as well as other infectious agents, can infect new host species. These results will provide insights into how to develop new public health strategies to predict and prevent new infectious disease outbreaks.

Publication: Structural evolution of an immune evasion determinant shapes pathogen host tropism

Press Release: New York State Department of Health Article On Lyme Disease Research Featured In Prestigious Publication

Ashley Marcinkiewicz

Ashley Marcinkiewicz, 1st author of publication


Yi-Pin Lin

Yi-Pin Lin, Ph.D., corresponding author of publication


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