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The Ins and Outs of the Lyme Disease Causing Bacteria, Borrelia

Quantitative Biology Colloquium

The Ins and Outs of the Lyme Disease Causing Bacteria, Borrelia
Series: Quantitative Biology Colloquium
Location: Hybrid: Math 402/Online
Presenter: Scott Sawyer, Department of Physics, University of Arizona


Lyme disease is caused by the spirochete bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is the most common tick-transmitted illness in the United States. The pathogenesis of this disease requires borrelia to travel from the tick midgut to the mammalian host. On this journey, the bacteria must traverse several different liquid-tissue interfaces. In our lab we have developed a novel assay for imaging borrelia at a liquid-gelatin interface, where the gelatin mimics the tissue of the host. Interestingly, single bacteria in the liquid rarely if ever enter the gelatin on their own. Instead, we have found that invasion into the gelatin involves high density clumps of borrelia that form in the liquid, bind at the liquid-gelatin interface, and enable the quick transmission of the bacteria into the gelatin. I will discuss my work to track these aggregates and determine the fundamental physical parameters for how they facilitate invasion and will also describe future experiments aiming to determine the mechanisms borrelia use to penetrate tissue barriers and migrate through its hosts.  In addition I will show experimental results where borrelia respond to mechanical changes in their environment.


Math Building, Room 402 and
Password: math