News FocusImmunology

Possible Cause Found for Lyme Arthritis

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Science  31 Jul 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5377, pp. 631-632
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5377.631

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Summary

On page 703, a research team reports a possible explanation for the persistent arthritis that develops in some people who have had Lyme disease. The researchers have discovered a striking resemblance between a protein found on the outer surface of the Lyme disease organism--the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi --and a protein carried on human cells. This suggests that the unlucky sufferers who develop the persistent arthritis do so because the infection triggers immune cells that attack both the spirochete protein and their own normal cellular protein by a process referred to as "molecular mimicry" that has also been postulated as the mechanism behind adverse reactions to the hepatitis B vaccine (see p. 630).