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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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Dogs Trust announces winners of vet student awards

News Story 1
 Cambridge vet student James Jewkes has been awarded first place in the annual Dogs Trust EMS Awards, for his paper on the threat of exotic infectious diseases in rehoming centres. James will now go on a two-week placement at the WVS International Training Centre in South India.

Each year the awards allow vet students to gain hands-on experience during work placements at 13 of the charity’s rehoming centres, then submit reports on a relevant subject.  

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Former RCVS president to chair new Horse Welfare Board

Former RCVS president Barry Johnson has been appointed as the independent chair of a new Horse Welfare Board. Barry, who is also past chairman of World Horse Welfare, was selected by an industry panel including the British Horseracing Authority, the Racecourse Association and The Horsemen’s Group.

The welfare board aims to develop a new welfare strategy covering the whole racing industry. Mr Johnson said: “I’m very pleased to have been asked by racing to take on this role and by the sport’s commitment to continuous improvement in the welfare of racehorses."