EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE
SEPT. 27, 2004
Contact: Tom Capezzuto
At UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School
Rapid Transfer of Genetic Elements Found to be
Associated With Infectiousness of Lyme Disease Strains
Findings Published in Sept. 28 Issue of Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences
Researchers, led by a Lyme disease expert at the University
of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), have identified
genetic elements associated with different strains of Lyme disease.
The findings show for the first time that the Lyme disease bacteria,
known as Borrelia burgdorferi, transfer genetic materials
between one another that may help establish infection, said Dr.
Steven E. Schutzer, an immunologist at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical
School in Newark and a principal investigator of the study. The
study appears in the September 28 edition of Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Schutzer and the team of researchers studied and identified
strains associated with Lyme disease in the United States and
then performed sequencing to determine the total genetic compositions
of each strain.
"Before this finding, it was believed that genetic changes within
the bacteria would occur primarily by the slower process of mutation
rather than the faster genetic exchange and transfer method,"
Dr. Schutzer explained. "This process may lead to quicker adaption
of the bacteria, which in turn may help the bacteria establish
the Lyme disease infection."
Information from this study "will be extremely important for
the development of new targets for diagnostic tests, vaccines
and therapies," said Dr. Benjamin J. Luft, an infectious disease
specialist and chair of the Department of Medicine at the State
University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook and a co-investigator
of the study.
Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacterial
spirochete, which is transmitted by a tick bite. The disease can
affect skin, nervous system, joints and the heart. It is often,
but not always, accompanied by a red bull's eye rash surrounding
the tick bite.
The authors said that results from this study will likely lead
to an improved comprehension of the interactions of the pathogen
and its effect on the human or animal subjects which it infects.
The study was funded by the Lyme Disease Association, Inc.,
of Jackson, N.J., the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Howard Hughes
Medical Institute. Other authors of the study included Drs. Weigang
Qui and Oliver Attie of Hunter College of the City University
of New York; Drs. John F. Bruno and Yun Xu of State University
of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook; Dr. John J. Dunn of Brookhaven
National Laboratory, New York; Dr. Claire M. Fraser of The Institute
for Genomic Research, Rockville, Md., and Dr. Sherwood R. Casjens,
University of Utah Medical School, Salt Lake City.
The UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School is one of three medical
schools of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
UMDNJ comprises New Jersey's only medical schools, the state's
only dental school, a nursing school, a graduate school of biomedical
sciences, a school of health related professions and a school
of public health on campuses in Newark, Piscataway/New Brunswick,
Camden, Stratford and Scotch Plains. It is affiliated with more
than 200 health care and educational institutions throughout the