To investigate cardiac involvement in the non-human primate (NHP) model of Lyme disease, we inoculated 39 adult Macaca mulatta with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto strains N40 (BbN40) by needle (N=22, 14 immunocompetent (IC), seven permanently immunosuppressed (IS), and four transiently immunosuppressed (TISP)) or by tick-bite (N=4, all TISP) or strain 297 (Bb297) by needle (N=2 IS), or with B. garinii strains Pbi (N=4, 2 TISP and 2 IS), 793 (N=2, TISP) or Pli (N=2, TISP). Five uninfected NHPs were used as controls. Infection and inflammation was studied in the hearts and the aorta removed at necropsy 2-32 months after inoculation by (1) H&E and trichrome-staining; (2) immunohistochemistry and digital image analysis; (3) Western blot densitometry; and (4) TaqMan RT-PCR. All NHPs inoculated with BbN40 became infected and showed carditis at necropsy. The predominant cells were T cells, plasma cells, and macrophages. There was increased IgG and IgM in the heart independent of immunosuppression. The B-cell chemokine BLC was significantly increased in IS-NHPs. There was increased deposition of the complement membrane attack complex (MAC) in TISP and IS-NHPs. The spirochetal load was very high in all BbN40-inoculated IS-NHPs but minimal if any in IC or TISP NHPs. Double-immunostaining revealed that many spirochetes in the heart of BbN40-IS NHPs had MAC on their membranes. We conclude that carditis in NHPs infected with B. burgdorferi is frequent and can persist for years but is mild unless they are immunosupressed.
Lab Invest. 2004 Nov;84(11):1439-50