Virginia Tech biochemist Brandon Jutras has discovered the cellular component that contributes to Lyme arthritis, a debilitating and extremely painful condition that is the most common late stage symptom of Lyme disease.

Erythema migrans/James Gathany

Jutras found that as the Lyme-causing bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi multiplies, it sheds a cellular component called peptidoglycan that elicits a unique inflammatory response in the body.

“This discovery will help researchers improve diagnostic tests and may lead to new treatment options for patients suffering with Lyme arthritis,” said Jutras, the lead author on the study. “This is an important finding, and we think that it has major implications for many manifestations of Lyme disease, not just Lyme arthritis.”

Reported incidences of Lyme disease, the most reported vector-borne disease in the country, have increased by more than 6,000 percent in the past 15 years in the state of Virginia. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that approximately 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease annually in the United States. Scientists predict that the number of people who become infected with Lyme will increase as our climate continues to change.

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Jutras — an assistant professor of biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and an affiliated faculty member of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute — and his collaborators recently published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more at Virginia Tech

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