The Genus Borrelia

  • Melissa Caimano
Reference work entry


The inability to cultivate many spirochetes, including the borreliae, at one time significantly hindered the placement of these organisms into a taxonomic scheme based on traditional biochemical methodologies. As a result, these organisms were initially grouped based primarily on their common helical or spiral shape (Fig. 1). The advent of contemporary ribosomal RNA cataloging has facilitated the division of the spirochetes into three phylogenetic families, the Spirochaetaceae (including the genera Borrelia, Brevinema, Cristispira, Spirochaeta, Spironema and Treponema), the Brachyspiraceae (including the genus Brachyspira [Serpulina]), and the Leptospiraceae (including the genera Leptospira and Leptonema; Thomas et al., 2001). All species in the genus Borreliaare transmitted to vertebrates by hematophagous (blood-feeding) arthropods. In most cases, the differentiation of borreliae species was based on 1) identification of the specific vector that transmits the spirochete,...

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