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Spirochaetes: know your enemy

MagazineJuly 2001 (Vol. 12 Issue 4)Spirochaetes: know your enemy

Tom Grier, a microbiologist and Lyme disease suffer, and author of The Lyme Disease Survival Manual, has spent years delving into the complex microbiology of the Lyme spirochaete

Tom Grier, a microbiologist and Lyme disease suffer, and author of The Lyme Disease Survival Manual, has spent years delving into the complex microbiology of the Lyme spirochaete. His work makes disturbing reading as it highlights just how robust, intelligent and well programmed for survival the organism is. For instance:

It is the largest of the spirochaetesIt has a superefficient internal propulsion system, which allows it to swim quickly through blood and tissue

It is covered with a clear gel like coat of glycoproteins, sometimes called the slime layer, or S-layer. This coating acts like a deflector shield, protecting the bacteria from attack by the immune system and antibiotics

It replicates slowly. Bacteria replicate by a process of division and most only take 20 minutes to divide. The division time of B. burgdorferi is 12-24 hours. This is important since most antibiotics can only kill bacteria while they are dividing. A slow doubling time means that B. burgdorferi is less exposed to antibiotics. While most bacteria are killed in 10-14 days by antibiotic treatment, for a Lyme spirochaete to get the same amount of lethal exposure, the antibiotic would have to be present 24 hours a day for one and a half years!

The Lyme spirochaete can remain in the body for years in a state of suspended animation. Since it does not divide during this time, antibiotics will not kill it. A Lyme spirochaete in this state will wait for conditions to be right before releasing itself into the blood stream to cause new symptoms or a relapse of old ones

The Lyme spirochaete appears to be selective and able to enter 'safe' human cells, and hide in the body, evading the immune system and medication. For instance, the spirochaete can enter human fibroblasts (the cells that make scar tissue). In this situation, the bacteria remain protected from the immune system and can thrive without assault. Laboratory tests have shown that, even when these fibroblast cultures were flooded with massive doses of antibiotics, they still yielded live spirochaetes after two weeks.

For details of how to obtain a copy of Grier's book, write to: The Lyme Disease Survival Manual, 902 Grandview Avenue, Duluth, MN 55812-1146, USA.

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