Lyme disease bacteria, Borrelia, able to form biofilms that make them resistant to treatment | Outbreak News Today Outbreak News Today
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Many of the 300,000 patients who contract Lyme disease each year know that curing it isn’t easy. Often, it seems to recur as soon as the antibiotics are discontinued, and doctors are reluctant to offer more and more rounds of antibiotics.

Borrelia burgdorferi/CDC

Borrelia burgdorferi/CDC

But now a new study, whose lead author is Eva Sapi, professor and head of biology and environmental science at the University of New Haven, suggests that the reason the Borrelia spirochetes that cause Lyme disease are resistant to treatment is because they form a biofilm in the body that allows it to “hide out” from antibiotics.

That biofilm – which has a very protective layer you might call “slime” – actually makes the bacteria up to 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than are other bacteria.

The article is the first to demonstrate the presence of Borrelia biofilm in human infected skin tissues, confirming that these structures indeed can exist in the human body published in the European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology, an international, peer-reviewed online journal. She hopes the work will lead to better therapies for curing the disease.

“These findings could change the way we think about Lyme disease,” she said, “especially in patients where it seems to be a persistent disease, despite long-term antibiotic treatment. This recent finding could help to better understand how Borrelia can survive treatment and elucidation of the biofilm components and will provide novel therapeutic targets for chronic Lyme disease, with the hope of eradicating Borrelia in these patients.”

The work is a follow-up to the 2012 research team’s article in PLOS ONE, another international, peer-reviewed online publication, which proposed that the observed antibiotic resistance and reoccurrence of Lyme disease might be due to the formation of an antibiotic resistance form called biofilm. Since then, the team has focused on actually finding the biofilm in human tissues. Their latest paper outlines their proof that it indeed exists.

So what exactly is a biofilm?

“A biofilm is a complex aggregation of microorganisms growing on a solid substrate,” Sapi, who has chronic Lyme disease, said.  “Unlike the more familiar free-swimming bacterial forms, cells in biofilms surround themselves with a complex matrix, better known as ‘slime,’ to protect the cells from environmental stresses such as the attack of the immune system or the exposure to antibiotics.”



  1. […] Many of the 300,000 patients who contract Lyme disease each year know that curing it isn’t easy. Often, it seems to recur as soon as the antibiotics are discontinued, and doctors are reluctant to offer more and more rounds of antibiotics.  […]

  2. This is most certainly not THE reason that Lyme forms persistent infections. It’s one major advantage that Lyme has, but there are dozens of other mechanisms that work in concert to allow Borrelia to form persistent infections. Borrelia is a pleomorphic organism that can not only form biofilm colonies but also has a dormant cyst-like form that is also extremely resistant to negative conditions including antibiotic treatment. It also has a cell wall deficient form it can take on in order to cause intracellular infection. It is also not a blood borne infection and can go into any space in the body where immune activity is lower. Borrelia also has multiple mechanisms for shutting down or disrupting immune response, including blocking the classical pathway of the complement system, running only on Manganese (and therefore it’s immune to the body’s self-induced anemia) and disrupting the adaptive immune system by direct attack on lymph nodes. And this is only scratching the surface of what Lyme can do.

    Borrelia is an extremely dangerous stealth pathogen and the medical community at large is only just BARELY beginning to understand the extent of its damage to millions of Americans and the degree to which the IDSA and the CDC have been both corrupt and completely incompetent in protecting us from terrible harm and misdiagnosis. It is very likely that millions of cases of chronic illness are simply Lyme misdiagnosis. Everything from serious conditions like MS, Fibro/ME, ALS, Alzheimer’s, cancer and autism to ADD, CFS, depression, celiac, gluten intolerance and allergies. Basically any systemic illness with immune and/or neurological involvement could involve Lyme infection and the amount of damage that’s being caused by this seriously misunderstood and massively underestimated pathogen is absolutely staggering and I believe it will eventually be an epic medical scandal, possibly the worst one of this century.

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