Ultrastructure of Borrelia burgdorferi

  • S. F. Hayes
  • W. Burgdorfer


The Lyme borreliosis spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi represents the first ixodid tick-associated spirochete pathogenic to humans. When first discovered in and isolated from the midgut tissues of Ixodes dammini from Shelter Island, New York (Burgdorfer et al. 1982) and shortly thereafter from I. ricinus collected from the Seewald Forest in Switzerland (Burgdorfer et al. 1983; Barbour et al. 1983), this spirochete was described as a treponeme-like organism, irregularly coiled, 10–30 μm in length with a diameter of 0.18–0.25 μm and with as many as eight endoflagella. Early electron microscopy studies showed spirochetes with 6–8 endoflagella; more recent examinations of cultured spirochetes, however, have revealed spirochetes possessing as many as 8–14 (Ackermann et al. 1984; Anderson et al. 1989; Hulinská et al. 1989). Immunochemical and molecular investigations have identified this microorganism as a hitherto undescribed member of the genus Borrelia (Johnson et al. 1984a, b; Schmid et al. 1984; Barbour et al. 1986). Although ultrastructural analysis of B. burgdorferi has been the subject of several investigations in the United States and also in Europe, descriptions vary. Differences in morphological criteria, such as end shape and the number of endoflagella, among isolates of diverse origins have led to the speculation that additional spirochetal species may be involved in the etiology of Lyme borreliosis (Hovind-Hougen et al. 1987; Karlsson et al. 1990). The present chapter summarizes our observations on the ultrastructure of B. burgdorferi, based upon investigations of multiple tick and human isolates from the United States as well as from Europe.


Lyme Disease Insertion Point Borrelia Burgdorferi Periplasmic Space Lyme Borreliosis 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. F. Hayes
  • W. Burgdorfer

There are no affiliations available

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