Borrelia burgdorferi are gram-negative spirochete bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Spirochetes are a group of phylogenetically distinct bacteria that have a unique mode of motility by means of axial filaments (endoflagella).
Borrelia are divided into “genospecies” including B. burgdorferi sensu strict, B. garinii and B. afzelii. The term used to collectively describe all these genospecies is B. burgdorferi sensu lato. B. burgdorferi invades the blood and tissues of various infected mammals and birds via the bite of ticks of genus Ixodes. The natural reservoir for B. burgdorferi is thought to be the white-footed mouse. Ticks transfer the spirochetes to deer, humans, and other warm-blooded animals after a blood meal from an infected animal. In most mammals, including humans, infection by B. burgdorferi can result in Lyme disease.
Lyme disease exhibits a variety of symptoms that may be confused with immune and inflammatory disorders. Inflammation around the tick bite causes skin lesions. Erythema (chronicum) migrans (ECM), a unique expanding skin lesion with central clearing that has a ring-like appearance, is typically the first stage of the disease. Arthritis, neurological disease, and cardiac disease may be later stage manifestations.
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