Lyme disease may linger for 1 in 5 because of “persisters”
Scientific American - 08/18/2015
These ideas stem from the observation of a few rogue bacterial cells. Kim Lewis, director of the antimicrobial discovery center at Northeastern University, and his colleagues grew B. burgdorferi in the laboratory, treated them with various antibiotics and found that whereas most of the bacteria died within the first day, a small percentage—called persister cells—managed to survive the drug onslaught. Scientists first discovered persister cells in 1944 in Staphylococcus aureus, the agent of staph infections, and Lewis and others have observed them in other species of bacteria, too—but the observations that B. burgdorferi also form persisters is new.
“These are some of the most robust persisters we’ve seen,” says Lewis, whose results were published online in May in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. “Over days, in the presence of antibiotic, their numbers don’t decline.” Researchers at Johns Hopkins University similarly identified B. burgdorferi persister cells this past spring.