Exploring the Role of the Immune System in Lyme Disease

April 22, 2014
Jacquelyn Gray

By comparing variations in cykotene levels in Lyme disease patients to those in healthy subjects, researchers at John Hopkins University have pinpointed long-term complications associated with the disease.

By comparing variations in cykotene levels in Lyme disease patients to those in healthy subjects, researchers at John Hopkins University have pinpointed long-term complications associated with the disease.

For their study published online in PLOS ONE on April 16, 2014, the researchers measured the cykotene and chemotine levels of healthy patients, as well as those with acute Lyme disease. By doing so, the investigators aimed to determine what inflammatory mediators are associated with the disease and its complications.

The investigators discovered a combination of elevated levels of cykotenes and chemotines, which distinguished Lyme disease patients from the healthy controls.

“Most notable are elevated levels of several T cell chemokines (CCL19, CXCL9, CXCL10), acute phase inflammatory markers (CRP and serum amyloid A), several IL-1 cytokine family members (IL-1ra, IL-18, IL-33), inflammatory cytokines TNF-alpha and IL-6 and the T cell cytokine IL-2,” the researchers wrote.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that 2 specific groups of Lyme disease patients can be distinguished based on key mediator levels.

“No differences in demographics, duration of illness, or the distribution of single versus multiple erythema migrans lesions were noted between the 2 groups,” the authors continued. “However, significant differences were noted in the number of symptoms (P<0.005), absolute lymphocyte levels (P = 0.002), liver enzyme tests (P = 0.027), and the presence of detectable anti-Borrelia antibodies (P = 0.021).”

Based on their findings, the authors asserted that liver enzymes and acute inflammatory markers are associated with Lyme disease. Additionally, the researchers claimed that measuring specific levels could be useful for diagnosing and treating the infection.

“Collectively, these results indicate that the levels of serum chemokines and the levels of expression of their respective chemokine receptors on T cell subsets may prove to be informative biomarkers for Lyme disease and related to specific disease manifestations,” the investigators penned.

Mark J. Soloski, PhD, senior author of the study, said in a statement the “experiments have linked such differences to specific immune pathways controlled by elements of the immune system, which in turn might help us understand both the good immune processes that clear up the infection and the bad ones that cause injury and prolong symptoms. This could be a big step forward in managing this disease.”