One Young Science Student's LD Research

General or non-medical topics with information and discussion related to Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.
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One Young Science Student's LD Research

Post by RitaA » Mon 28 May 2012 22:18

This was published in The Spectra -- The Virginia Engineering and Science Research Journal:

"Highlighting Undergraduate Research, Volume II, Issue 1, Spring 2011"

Any thoughts by those in the scientific community? ... elia11.pdf
The Identification of Borrelia Strains Carrying
the BstBI Mutation in the fur Gene Homologue

Robert Sampson
College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Biology

Social Impact

Lyme disease affects thousands of people in the United
States with symptoms ranging from nerve paralysis to heart
attacks. This research looks into studying gene mutation in
Borrelia burgdorferi , the bacterial vector of Lyme disease.
Certain gene mutations in Borrelia render the bacteria defenseless
against the human immune system. This research
focuses on one mutation site called BstBI.
Although there
are laboratory grown strains of Borrelia with this mutation,
up until this point, no naturally occurring strains have been
isolated carrying the mutation. By analyzing more than 40
strains of Borrelia, this paper describes a naturally occurring
strain containing the same mutation. This unique discovery
indicates that more research should be directed into developing
a therapy that induces a strategic gene mutation in Borrelia,
either through a vaccine or another mechanism.

[Robert Sampson] Biography:

Robert Sampson is a second-year biology major from Stony Brook,
New York. At the University of Virginia, he is the Chief Information
Officer of the McIntire Investment Institute, a Peer Advising Family
Network Advisor, a volunteer with Madison House, a Resident
Advisor, and an EMT. His research on Lyme disease was conducted
during high school at State University of New York (SUNY)
at Stony Brook under Dr. Jorge Benach, James Coleman, and Dr.
Laura Katona. SUNY Stony Brook is one of the paramount locations
in the world to study Lyme disease and is where the first
one-hour assay for the disease was developed. Currently, Robert
works in Dr. Tung’s laboratory at the University of Virginia
studying the immunology and pathology of autoimmune diseases.
In the future, Robert plans to continue researching while
pursuing a career in Medicine. In his free time, Robert enjoys
playing cello, fencing, trading stocks, playing ping-pong, and spending
time with his friends.


To cure Lyme disease, a better understanding of transcriptional proteins in the bacterial vector Borrelia burgdorferi must be gathered to learn more about how the bacterium regulates its genome. Ferric uptake regulation protein (fur) is a transcriptional regulator found in most bacterial species, including Borrelia burgdorferi. When Borrelia invades a human, the host immune system responds by producing Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) to fight the infection. Properly functioning fur mitigates the effect of ROS with enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase B. However, improperly functioning fur that has a BstBI mutation site allows Borrelia to be highly susceptible to ROS and be easily eradicated by an immune system. In two newly studied laboratory strains of Borrelia, B31F and CHP100, the BstBI mutation exists, which would allow a host immune system to easily irradiate the pathogen. The validity of these strains has been called into question since they were developed in a lab and not in the wild. Scientists argue some lab strains are artifacts and are not representative of naturally occurring strains. Analysis was conducted to search for a wild strain of Borrelia that contains the mutation. After analyzing over 40 different strains, Borrelia ACA1, a wild strain, was found to also contain the BstBI mutation. This unique finding suggests there are other strains of Borrelia that also have this fur mutation. In the future, the BstBI mutation could have a role in curing Lyme disease as vaccines and other immune therapies can be developed with the fur protein as their target.

[snip] ... Click on the link above to read the rest of the article.

Here are a couple of quotes that I found especially interesting:

(pages 43-44):
To date, only two strains of Borrelia have been discovered
with a mutation on the fur homologue, Borrelia burgdorferi
strain CHP100, and Borrelia burgdorferi strain B31F, also
a lab derivative of Borrelia burgdorferi B31 (Katona, 2008;
Seshu, Hyde, et al., 2004). New information suggests
an additional strain, ACA1, also possesses the fur BstBI
The presence of the BstBI mutation was
investigated in 42 strains of Borrelia to compare the B31
derivative strains (CHP100 and B31F), which are known to
be less virulent than wild-type strains occurring in nature
To confirm each sample’s authenticity after being studied,
widely studied taxonomical molecular markers, such as
groEL, were utilized (Park et al., 2004).

(page 45):
Future research will be directed into verifying Borrelia
burgdorferi ACA1 since it has been found to possess a
mutation on the fur homologue. Our study supports the
theory that the BstBI mutation exists in the wild. As a
result, it would be reasonable to deduce this mutation may
be prevalent in many strains throughout the world since
the mutation has occurred in three out of 42 investigated
strains. This is a high ratio when considering the existence
of millions of strains of Borrelia.

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