NEWS: New UC Davis study says Lyme hides out in lymph nodes

8th June 2011


Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have found that Lyme bacteria "have developed a novel strategy for subverting the immune response of the animals they infect." Their study appears on-line in the journal Public Library of Science Biology.


Press release from UC Davis:


Lyme disease bacteria take cover in lymph nodes, study finds

June 8, 2011

The bacteria that cause Lyme disease, one of the most important emerging diseases in the United States, appear to hide out in the lymph nodes, triggering a significant immune response, but one that is not strong enough to rout the infection, report researchers at the University of California, Davis.

Results from this groundbreaking study involving mice may explain why some people experience repeated infections of Lyme disease. The study appears online in the journal Public Library of Science Biology.

“Our findings suggest for the first time that Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that cause Lyme disease in people, dogs and wildlife, have developed a novel strategy for subverting the immune response of the animals they infect,” said Professor Nicole Baumgarth, an authority on immune responses at the UC Davis Center for Comparative Medicine.

“At first it seems counter intuitive that an infectious organism would choose to migrate to the lymph nodes where it would automatically trigger an immune response in the host animal,” Baumgarth said. “But B. burgdorferi have apparently struck an intricate balance that allows the bacteria to both provoke and elude the animal’s immune response.”

About Lyme disease

Lyme disease, the most important tick-borne disease in the United States is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, corkscrew-shaped bacteria also known as spirochetes. The disease is transmitted to humans and animals through bites from infected deer ticks. The disease occurs mainly in the Northeastern and Great Lakes states, and is present to a lesser extent in Northern California.

Symptoms of Lyme disease are quite variable and may include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash. If the infection is not treated, it can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system.

Usually, Lyme disease can be successfully treated with about four weeks of antibiotics; treatment is most successful during the early stages of infection.

The UC Davis study

Swollen lymph nodes, or lymphadenopathy, is one of the hallmarks of Lyme disease, although it has been unclear why this occurs or how it affects the course of the disease. The UC Davis research team set out to explore in mice the mechanisms that cause the enlarged lymph nodes and to determine the nature of the resulting immune response.

They found that when mice were infected with B. burgdorferi, these live spirochetes accumulated in the animals’ lymph nodes. The lymph nodes responded with a strong, rapid accumulation of B cells, white blood cells that produce antibodies to fight infections. Also, the presence of B. burgdorferi caused the destruction of the distinct architecture of the lymph node that usually helps it to function normally.

While B cells accumulated in large numbers and made some specific antibodies against B. burgdorferi, they did not form “germinal centers,” structures that are needed for the generation of highly functional and long-lived antibody responses.

“Overall, these findings suggest that B. burgdorferi hinder the immune system from generating a response that is fully functional and that can persist and protect after repeat infections,” Baumgarth said. “Thus, the study might explain why people living in endemic areas can be repeatedly infected with these disease-causing spirochetes.”

In addition to Baumgarth, members of the UC Davis research team include Stephen Barthold, director of the Center for Comparative Medicine; Emir Hodzic, director of the Real-Time PCR Research and Diagnostics Core Facility; staff scientist Sunlian Feng; graduate student Christine Hastey; and Stefan Tunev, formerly of the Center for Comparative Medicine and now at Medtronic Inc.

Funding for the study was provided by the National Institute of Health.

About UC Davis

For more than 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world. Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has more than 32,000 students, more than 2,500 faculty and more than 21,000 staff, an annual research budget that exceeds $678 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges — Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science. It also houses six professional schools — Education, Law, Management, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.


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15 thoughts on “NEWS: New UC Davis study says Lyme hides out in lymph nodes

  1. Please, after 30 years of immune dysfunction and many opportunistic infections, how do I get a positive LYME dx? Also my son inherited at least one virus from me in utero or at birth. He suffer an acute brain emb blood clotting stroke had immune weakness, serious fatigues after any exertion and mus take coumadin for life. The steroids for no cortisol production are keeping him up for days. He lives in high 10 levels of head pain w neck swelling as well as behing his eyes. bone loss and cartilage damage in R rotator and R knee. uses a cane four prong for balance issues. VIsual disturbances are common.

    I have spirochetes in my eyes and field of vision. Every joint muscle and bone hurts. VIsion loss is serious. Brain feels swollen. Fever and fluish symptoms.

    we both ahve all these.

    who please can help us? we are homebound all alone w no support system. we are out of food.
    we go w/o eating.
    Depression has started due to all of the losses we have suffered.


  2. I have suffered with Lymes for 2 years and very happy that UC davis is doing this research. 2 years of intense antibiotics have not put me into remission as of yet. I am on disability and had to have my picc line removed because roceftion is not covered I only received 4 weeks of IV treatment.I will hopefully receive treatment from a natriopath Dr. in July. Keep studying thanks
    Steven Croak

  3. Cindee, it might be helpful to connect with other Lyme patients in your region, to find out what resources might be available.

    One way to do this is via on-line support groups. If you are in California, go here:

    If you are in a different state, go here:

    For other assistance, can you contact your county welfare department and/or a local food closet?

    Take care and God bless,

  4. My daughter has been battling lyme and coinfections for nearly four years. She was able to go back to work for awhile as an officer and now has been off again getting treatment of various antibiotics. The costs are huge for people infected and health insurance and worker's comp have been difficult to work with for payment. People who do get lyme do not have the energy to fight for proper treatment and hopefully with the help of the research done at Davis and other universities treatment which works can be found for my daughter and those who are suffering. Many MDs that she went to initially did not believe she was ill and told her to quit her job, but it is what she wants to do and I hope she can go back eventually. She is a great officer. I hope funding continues so research for lyme and co infections can be appropriately treated and stop suffering.

  5. Cindee,

    Also try the Yahoo group BorreliaMultipleInfectionsAndAutism. This group is helping me to greatly improve mine and my son's lives.

    All the best to you.

  6. Cindee – you're mentioning many issues here. It would be easiest to respond on a discussion board, like for example, is very good for that. A lot of folks could help with all the things you're talking about. You can sign up there with a name, then post in Medical Questions or General Support, and we can respond. This is the kind of discussion we have there, to help folks through.

  7. Cindee – Very sorry to hear your plight. I was tested by Igenex Labs in Palo Alto, CA. Medicare covered it. I have a very good Lyme literate dr. in St. Paul, MN. I receive SSDI disability, but it was a year-long battle and took 3 attempts. I get help from my county Social Services Dept – food stamps, help with my heating bills through the state – help with my phone bill, etc. I live in HUD-subsidized apt., so rent is lower. A good worker at the county Social Services would be able to help with most of this, also a good church. God bless and help you.

  8. This is one of the symptoms I've been battling for several years. The radiologist said my swelling was in the lymph nodes but the surgeon thought it was my salivary glands. I'd be interested in finding out how patients are being helped with this symptom. Thanks.

  9. Marie, My situation is similar to yours, but i dont get food stamps and I had to pay over $700.00 for the tests and they were negative. I have had three other positive tests, a text book EM rash, many tick bites, all but one of the hundred or so symptoms, and now have Babesia and god knows what else from a blood transfusion. I live in California.

  10. Hello Cindee……my heart broke when I read your blog. I had Lyme in 1995 along with babesia, erlichiosis and acute Epstein Barr…..thought I was going to die. Did 2 years of antibiotics where I got a little better, but then had candida from the antibiotics raging in my body. I started a Support Group in Chico, Calif with 15 people and in 5 years had 450 people in it!! I am now pretty symptom free…..this is what I did:

    Somewhere I read the spirochete has a protein coating around it that makes our immune system unable to penetrate it to kill it. Did some research and found that protolytic enzymes will remove that and leave the bacteria open to be killed. I used a product called VIRASTOP by Enzymedica about 6 a day, or even more depending on how seriously ill you are. I then used SAMENTO's Cats Claw as an antibiotic and North American Herb and Spices Oil of Oregano as antibiotics. Both of these got rid of the candida. Then just began to build my immune system with a product called E7 by Integris Global. I also did powdered wheat grass (by Amazing Grass) in water twice a day. The chlorophyl in it flushes the die off in your blood and organ out of your system rapidly when you have Herx Heimer. I reactions. I also juiced at least once, sometimes twice a day…..lots of greens, a little carrot and apple for taste. No alcohol, sugar, white flour or bad oils or processed foods. All natural and organic. I knocked the stuff out of my system in about a years time. I now live in Mexico and do ozone therapy just to boost my immune system and keep me tip top. I occasionally still get hit with a round of the EBV, but use the ozone and VIRASTOP by Enzymedica to knock it out. Once this seriously ill, it seems our immune systems become fragile. Hope this helps……..I will be in prayer for all of you on this site who are suffering……….I found my answers thru God in prayer…….I asked Him to show me what to do and lead me………He did. God bless you.
    Lynn Prince Sonora, Mexico

  11. I am in total agreement with you Lynn, the only way I am fighting through this is because I grew close to God and I asked him to either take me or help me to endure this and start healing so I can help others. This can be a lonely disease if you don't reach out, take help when you need it, become more humble and relay on God. I feel when i am physically weak, i become spiritually strong. But amazingly after reading Lynn's comment, I too was guided to use many of the same products as Lynn, I was just looking into Enzymedidica's product so thanks for verifying that. I do 6 juices a day, 2 green and 4 carrot/apple/ginger. I follow gerson therapy( which is very beneficial for all of us Lymies. I also have used hyperbaric therapy and other products that are helping heal the damage the bacteria have caused. I am still battling but from where I was in Dec 2010 which was close to death, not able to drive or take care of myself, I am so much better. I am driving again, live on my own, and I am starting a Co-op to help bring down cost for Lyme type products which also helps other people with chronic diseases as well. If anyone is interested, you can email me at This is not for profit just to buy at larger qty so we can get stuff cheaper. We all know how expensive this disease can be. My daughter and I are now growing some of our food so we can eat organic as much as possible. Lynn thank you for your message, i think VIRASTOP may be what i needed to breakdown the outer layer so I can use the SAMENTO more effectively. Cindee my heart goes out to you as it does to everyone here. We can endure this, but we sometimes need to lean on each other. I hope and pray that all of you are on the road of healing. You are not alone.

  12. I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease in June of 1990. I had the tic on my right leg and within 5 days I had the red ring . I went to a clinic in Hyannis, MA that Sunday, they did a blood test and said it was positive for Lyme. They put me on an antibiotic (I don't remember which one, I've had so many over the years)for 21 days and said that I was all set. For the next 7 years I suffered with joint aches, head aches, exhaustion etc. We were seeing a PA at another clinic in Hyannis and when I described what I was going through, he told me I still had Lyme and that it wasn't treated aggressively enough at the onset. He put me on amoxicillan and we began to search for a doctor that dealt with infectious diseases. I met Dr. Samuel Donta who was affiliated with Boston Medical Center. For three years I went through Donta's program of antibiotic therapy, switching from one to another every 3 months (3 different antibiotics). After 3 years and feeling like I was on a rollercoaster of feeling pretty good and thenpretty bad, I asked if this was as good asit was going to get. He told me that the only thing left to try was an IV pic-line. I was so fed up with all the trial and error treatments that I opted not to commit to that treatment. I was a shop teacher at the time and I didn't feel like walking around with the shunt in my arm. I retired in 2004 and shortly after we moved to Florida. Winter killed me. I thought that the southern heat would help me some. Now in FL I have found that very few doctors here even acknowledge that Lyme exists. I've had doctors try to convince me that I have arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. I am now in constant pain, exhausted (there are days that I don't get out of bed), my hands, arms and legs cramp severely, Ive developed tremors in my hands which for a pinstriper is deadly. Most recently, after a car trip up north for a visit and a flight home my feet and ankles have blown up like baloons and don't want to go down.I went to see our family doctor,who is a very good listener, but has a limited knowledge when it comes to Lyme. He took one look at my feet and sent me for two ultra sounds of my legs and groin, to check for circulation problems. That all came back negativebut, they found that some of my lymph nodes in my groin area are enlarged. This latest finding is what brought me to this web site. In reading about recent studies I found that the Lyme will hide in the lymph nodes and again mock other conditions. Last year, at this time I was just coming off of a 16 week IV treatment of ceftriaxone (sp) that didn't do much more than anything else has. I am seeing an infectious disease doctor who is very nice but is also taking shots in the dark. At least he tells me that there are no guarantees because I've been dealing with the Lyme for so many years. This past summer our family doctor put me in the hospital for "observation". I went through every possible test with every specialist in town looking at me. The final determination was that I had no major health issuews so all of my problems came back to LYME DISEASE.I forgot to mentionthat I get a pain in my chest that will start on the right, move to my left and start down my arm. A cardiologist has done all of the blood work related to a heart attack, stress tests and finally a cathater to look at my heart. My heart is in excellent condition. In 2002 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and the final result was to remove my prostate. It was caught soon enough so it hadn't spread. This is why the lymph node condition has me worried. Hopefully it is theLyme and not cancer. I know that I have been long winded but I finally had to share my experiences with someone.

  13. Symptoms: daily migraine headaches, swollen lymph nodes on the left side of my neck, enlarged pituitary gland, enlarged thyroid gland (only on 1 side), body aches all over, joint pain, can’t sleep (very restless, but extremely tired), CD-57 level is 39, ANA tested postive for autoimmune disease of some kind but not sure what yet, blurred vision in the morning after I get up, gradual weight gain and hot flashes with sweats like you wouldn’t believe. I’m seeing a Neurologist who suspects I may have had Lyme Disease with a co-infection for several years now. Blood results have not come back yet from Igenex and Advanced Labs. Due to get them next Tuesday (8/14/12). I am a very active person, both with work and my personal life, but this is seriously taking a toll on me for sure.

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