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Conversion of Borrelia garinii cystic forms to motile spirochetes in vivo

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Cystic forms (also called spheroplasts or starvation forms) and their ability to reconvert into normal motile spirochetes have already been demonstrated in the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex. The aim of this study was to determine whether motile B. garinii could develop from cystic forms, not only in vitro but also in vivo, in cyst-inoculated mice. The cysts prepared in distilled water were able to reconvert into normal motile spirochetes at any time during in vitro experiments, lasting one month, even after freeze-thawing of the cysts. Motile spirochetes were successfully isolated from 2 out of 15 mice inoculated intraperitoneally with cystic forms, showing the infectivity of the cysts. The demonstrated capacity of the cysts to reconvert into motile spirochetes in vivo and their surprising resistance to adverse environmental conditions should lead to further studies on the role and function of these forms in Lyme disease.

Keywords: Borrelia; Lyme borreliosis; cystic forms; infectivity

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Microbiology and Parasitology, Veterinary Faculty, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2: Institute of Microbiology and Immunology, Medical Faculty, Ljubljana, Slovenia, and 3: Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy

Publication date: May 1, 2001


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