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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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Report: A third of Welsh birds are in decline

News Story 1
 A report by RSPB Cymru and partnering ornithology organisations has revealed that a third of bird species in Wales are in significant decline.

90 per cent of Wales is farmed and there is now pressure to implement new land management policies that will aid in nature restoration.

Patrick Lindley, Maritime Ornithologist for Natural Resources Wales, commented: “The problems that confront UK birds, whether they are breeding or non-breeding, are pressure and threats that confront entire ecosystems.

“Birds are a great indicator to the health of our environment. The continued population declines of birds of farmed, woodland and upland habitats suggest there are large geographic themes that are having a detrimental impact.”  

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News Shorts
British sheep meat to be exported to India in new agreement

The UK government has secured a new export deal of sheep meat to India.

In 2017, UK sheep meat exports were worth £386 million. This new agreement is predicted to increase this value by £6 million over the next five years.

With a range of meat cuts due to be exported, the deal is seen by international trade secretary, Dr Liam Fox MP, as “another vote of confidence in our world-leading food and drink”.