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Klemen Strle, Ph.D.

Klemen Strle, Ph.D.

Immunity and Pathogenesis of Tick-borne Diseases
Assistant Professor: Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School, Boston MA
PhD: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign IL
Postdoctoral training: Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School, Boston MA

Research Interests


Immunity and Pathogenesis of Tick-Borne Diseases: Lyme disease and beyond

Tick-borne diseases are a growing public health threat and pose a substantial burden on affected communities. Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere and has now reached epidemic proportions in several locations in United States and Europe. The disease can present with a range of clinical manifestations that vary in severity and duration, including complications that persist despite antibiotic therapy, termed post-treatment Lyme disease symptoms / syndrome (PTLDS). However, the reasons for these differences in disease course and outcome are poorly understood.

Our laboratory conducts translational research in human immunology with a focus on Lyme disease. The work is centered on elucidating mechanisms that lead to protective or pathogenic immune responses and how such responses shape the clinical course and outcome of the disease in patients. In addition, we are determining how host and microbial (Borrelia burgdorferi) genetic factors modulate these responses. For this purpose, we are using the latest system-wide genomic and transcriptomic approaches in clinical samples, coupled with functional studies in cells and tissue, and then correlating this information with well-defined clinical information in patients. The goals of this work are to improve the understanding of disease pathogenesis, to develop novel diagnostic assays for early identification of patients at greater risk for severe disease, and to help guide more rational and effective treatment strategies for such patients. This work involves a multi-center collaboration with investigators across United States and Europe.

Current research projects in the laboratory:

  • Host immunity: Characterization of cellular and humoral immune responses in patients with Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases to identify immune pathways associated with resolution or perpetuation of disease.
  • Host genetics: Identification of host genetic determinants (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) in dysregulated immune responses and adverse clinical outcomes in Lyme disease.
  • Microbial genetics: Genomic analysis of a large range of B. burgdorferi isolates from patients to define microbial determinants of maladaptive immune responses and adverse clinical outcomes.

Dr. Strle has received funding from the:

  • National Institutes of Health / NIAMS
  • National Institutes of Health / NIAID
  • Global Lyme Alliance
  • Arthritis Foundation
  • ECOR / MGH

Select Publications

Lochhead RB, Strle K, Arvikar SL, Weis JJ, Steere AC.
Lyme arthritis: linking infection, inflammation and autoimmunity.
Nat Rev Rheumatol.
DOI: 10.1038/s41584-021-00648-5
Jutras BL, Lochhead RB, Kloos ZA, Biboy J, Strle K, Booth CJ, Govers SK, Gray J, Schumann P, Vollmer W, Bockenstedt LK, Steere AC, Jacobs-Wagner C.
Borrelia burgdorferi peptidoglycan is a persistent antigen in patients with Lyme arthritis.
Proc Natl Acad Sci USA.
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1904170116
Lochhead RB, Ordoñez D, Arvikar SL, Aversa JM, Oh LS, Heyworth B, Sadreyev R, Steere AC, Strle K.
Interferon-gamma production in Lyme arthritis synovial tissue promotes differentiation of fibroblast-like synoviocytes into immune effector cells.
Cell Microbiol.
DOI: 10.1111/cmi.12992
Lochhead RB, Arvikar SL, Aversa JM, Sadreyev RI, Strle K, Steere AC.
Robust interferon signature and suppressed tissue repair gene expression in synovial tissue from patients with postinfectious, Borrelia burgdorferi-induced Lyme arthritis.
Cell Microbiol.
DOI: 10.1111/cmi.12954
Strle K, Sulka KB, Pianta A, Crowley JT, Arvikar SL, Anselmo A, Sadreyev R, Steere AC.
T-helper 17 cell cytokine responses in Lyme disease correlate with Borrelia burgdorferi antibodies during early infection and with autoantibodies late in the illness in patients with antibiotic-refractory Lyme arthritis.
Clin Infect Dis.
DOI: 10.1093/cid/cix002
Cerar T, Strle F, Stupica D, Ruzic-Sabljic E, McHugh G, Steere AC, Strle K.
Differences in genotype, clinical features, and inflammatory potential of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto strains from Europe and the United States.
Emerg Infect Dis.
DOI: 10.3201/eid2205.151806
Strle K, Stupica D, Drouin EE. Steere AC, Strle F.
Elevated levels of IL-23 in a subset of patients with post-Lyme disease symptoms following erythema migrans.
Clin Infect Dis.
DOI: 10.1093/cid/cit735
Strle K, Shin JJ, Glickstein L, Steere AC.
TLR1 polymorphism, heightened TH1 responses and antibiotic-refractory Lyme arthritis.
Arthritis Rheum.
DOI: 10.1002/art.34383
Strle K, Jones KL, Drouin EE, Li X, Steere AC.
Borrelia burgdorferi RST1 (OspC Type A) Genotype is associated with greater inflammation and more severe Lyme disease.
Am J Pathol.
DOI: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2011.02.018