Borrelia is a bacteria genus that contains 52 known species. This genus is named after the French biologist Amédée Borrell. It can be further catalogued into three groups: 21 species belong to the Lyme disease group, 29 species are members of the relapsing fever group and two species belong to a third group. The infection of Borrelia bacteria may cause borreliosis (also known as Lyme disease), a zoonotic, vector-borne disease. The most common sign of borreliosis is erythema migrans , an expanding area of redness, at the site of a tick bite. Possibly followed by early symptoms including headache, fever and feeling tired. If untreated, serious symptoms may appear including loss of the ability to move one or both sides of the face, severe headaches with neck stiffness, joint pains, swelling , memory problems, heart palpitations, among others. Borreliosis is transmitted primarily by ticks or by lice, which differs between species. 12 species of Borrelia are known to be capable to cause borreliosis. Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia afzelii, and Borrelia garinii are major species known to cause borreliosis.
Fig. 1 Scanning electron microscope picture of B. burgdorferi spirochetes associated with the epithelium of the midgut of an I. dammini tick. (Alan G. Barbour, et al. 1986)
Borrelia species are spirochetes and have several structural characteristics in common with other spirochetes. Cells of Borrelia species are shaped helically and motile with three modes of movement. The protoplasmic cylinder complex which consists of the inner cell membrane, cytoplasm, and the peptidoglycan, is surrounded by an outer cell membrane. What's more, flagella are located in the periplasmic space between the outer cell membrane and the protoplasmic cylinder, instead of the cell's surface like other bacteria. Cells of Borrelia do not have a discernible regular array at the cell surface. But it may have an amorphous slime layer at this position. The outer cell membrane, or outer sheath, has a trilaminar organization which is similar with cytoplasmic membrane. Cell wall of Borrelia cells contains muramic acid and ornithine as the diamino acid in the peptidoglycan.
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