Culture and identification of Borrelia spirochetes in human vaginal secretions

Results: Control subjects who were asymptomatic and seronegative for Bb had no detectable spirochetes in genital secretions by PCR analysis. In contrast, spirochetes were observed in cultures of genital secretions from 11 of 13 subjects diagnosed with Lyme disease, and motile spirochetes were detected in genital culture concentrates from 12 of 13 Lyme disease patients using light and darkfield microscopy. Morphological features of spirochetes were confirmed by Dieterle silver staining and immunohistochemical staining of culture concentrates. Molecular hybridization and PCR testing confirmed that the spirochetes isolated from semen and vaginal secretions were strains of Borrelia, and all cultures were negative for treponemal spirochetes. PCR sequencing of cultured spirochetes from three couples having unprotected sex indicated that two couples had identical strains of Bb sensu stricto in their semen and vaginal secretions, while the third couple had identical strains of B. hermsii detected in their genital secretions.
Conclusions: The culture of viable Borrelia spirochetes in genital secretions suggests that Lyme disease could be transmitted by intimate contact from person to person. Further studies are needed to evaluate this hypothesis.

Read the latest article version by Marianne J. Middelveen, Jennie Burke, Eva Sapi, Cheryl Bandoski, Katherine R. Filush, Yean Wang, Agustin Franco, Arun Timmaraju, Hilary A. Schlinger, Peter J. Mayne, Raphael B. Stricker, at F1000Research.
f1000research.com