The efficacy and accepted regimen of antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease has been a point of significant contention among physicians and patients. While experimental studies in animals have offered evidence of post-treatment persistence of Borrelia burgdorferi, variations in methodology, detection methods and limitations of the models have led to some uncertainty with respect to translation of these results to human infection. With all stages of clinical Lyme disease having previously been described in nonhuman primates, this animal model was selected in order to most closely mimic human infection and response to treatment. Rhesus macaques were inoculated with B. burgdorferi by tick bite and a portion were treated with recommended doses of doxycycline for 28 days at four months post-inoculation. Signs of infection, clinical pathology, and antibody responses to a set of five antigens were monitored throughout the ~1.2 year study. Persistence of B. burgdorferi was evaluated using xenodiagnosis, bioassays in mice, multiple methods of molecular detection, immunostaining with polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies and an in vivo culture system. Our results demonstrate host-dependent signs of infection and variation in antibody responses. In addition, we observed evidence of persistent, intact, metabolically-active B. burgdorferi after antibiotic treatment of disseminated infection and showed that persistence may not be reflected by maintenance of specific antibody production by the host.
PLoS One. 2017 Dec 13;12(12):e0189071