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Study reveals how Lyme disease spreads through the body
Lyme disease bacteria
Lyme disease bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) spreads through the body by clinging to the lining of blood vessels.

Cell-imaging approach offers new insights

Research by the University of Toronto has revealed how Lyme disease bacteria spreads through the body.

Published in the journal Cell Reports, the study found that a special adhesion protein called BBK32 helps Lyme disease bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) cling onto and move along the inside lining of blood vessels.  

"It's likely that this property helps the bacteria get to sites where they might be able to persist longer, and this property might therefore make it harder to treat infections caused by these bacteria," explains first author Rhodaba Ebady.

In the study, the team developed a live-imaging-cell based system that provides both molecular and biomechanical insights into how bacteria travels throughout the body.

Using genetically modified strains of Borrelia burgdorferi, the team watched through a microscope as the bacteria - marked with fluorescent green protein - moved across cells in real time.

Their findings suggest that drugs targeting BBK32 could help to prevent or slow down the spread of Lyme disease bacteria to joints, the heart and nervous system.

This would eliminate or reduce the severity of symptoms like heart inflammation, arthritis, facial paralysis and nerve pain, the researchers say.

Furthermore, because BBK32-like proteins are produced by pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes, the researchers believe their findings may also be relevant to other serious conditions, like pneumonia and inflammation affecting the heart.

Looking ahead, the team hope to identify endothelial receptors that BBK32 interact with, assess the biomechanical role of bacterial flagella in vascular interactions, and try to determine how bacteria target specific endothelia associated with different tissues.

More broadly, the team hope their cell-imaging approach could be used to study how other pathogens spread throughout the body.

Image (C) Jamice Haney Carr, Claudia Molins, USCDCP 

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Art installation uses 15,000 discarded plastic bottles

News Story 1
 London Zoo has unveiled a new art installation made from 15,000 discarded single-use plastic bottles, all of which were collected from London and its waterways. The installation, dubbed the Space of Waste, is 16ft tall and was created by the artist and architect Nick Wood. It houses information about plastic pollution and the small steps that everyone can take to tackle the issue.

Mr Wood commented: “Building this piece with ZSL was a satisfying challenge, as plastic bottles are not usually seen as a building material – recycling them into this structure, which will remain at ZSL London Zoo all summer, was a great way to turn the culprits themselves into a stark visual reminder of the worsening plastic problem in our city.” Image © David Parry/PAWIRE/ZSL 

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Strategic alliance to support development of agri-food sector

The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Queen’s University Belfast have formed a new strategic alliance that will see both institutions form a research and education partnership.

Under the agreement, the organisations will pool their resources and expertise to support the development of the agri-food sector. It will work across three core themes: enabling innovation, facilitating new ways of working and partnerships.