When you’re bitten by a tick carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, the microbes travel through your bloodstream and can eventually spread to the heart, joints and nervous system. But exactly how these bacteria move inside human blood vessels to spread throughout the body has remained largely a mystery, until now.
A new study sheds light on the way these bacteria latch onto the inside of blood vessel walls and move inside the vessels while fighting the forces of flowing blood.
The findings also suggest ways that researchers might target the interactions between the bacteria and blood vessels in order to slow down or prevent the disease’s spread, the researchers said. [10 Bizarre Diseases You Can Get Outdoors]
Investigating the interactions between bacteria and blood vessels “is really important for understanding how bacteria spread through the body via the cardiovascular system, and for developing methods to block bacterial dissemination,” study co-author Tara Moriarty of the University of Toronto, said in a statement.
In the study, the researchers developed a so-called flow chamber that simulated the inside of human blood vessels. This system allowed the scientists to model and track how Lyme disease bacteria, called Borrelia burgdorferi, interact with the insides of blood vessels.