Ute Frevert, DVM, PhD - Interview

Lyme Disease Picture of Ute Frevert"As with malaria, we are planning to use in vivo imaging to better understand how Borrelia infects the nervous system and what kind of damage the spirochetes cause to the brain," she states.

"Many of the symptoms of people with a borreliosis history are attributed to chronic manifestation of the disease," she explains. "These symptoms may be due to inflammatory effects of the spirochetes leading to tissue injury. These chronic effects may remain long after the spirochetes are gone or in the presence of very low numbers of spirochetes. Thus, their origin may be difficult to correlate with the infection."

This study will focus on an animal model, utilizing mice and gerbils. "We are hoping to be able to establish an animal model that mimics the symptoms and pathology observed in human neuroborreliosis," Dr. Frevert says. "Existing murine models have been used extensively to study joint and heart disease frequently associated with human borreliosis.

"The small animal model has the enormous advantage of allowing us to directly observe the behavior of individual microorganisms in the host, at high resolution and in real time. Because our approach is invasive, i.e. requires surgical preparation of the animal, such studies cannot be conducted in humans."

Dr. Frevert believes that there is a great deal of information to be learned about Lyme disease. "Every microorganism has its own peculiarities," she says, "and this makes research in this field so fascinating. Depending on the mode of entry into the host, the route of dissemination, and the manifestation of the infection, infectious microorganisms have developed their specific strategies and molecular mechanisms for survival, for example by manipulating the immune system of the host or by hiding in privileged locations. Analyzing these tricks is intriguing."

From these intriguing tricks will come information that will assist the Lyme community as it moves forward in the search for better understanding of the disease and, ultimately, more effective treatments for patients.