Previous work has indicated that both Borrelia burgdorferi and the process of tick feeding (saliva) modulate the host immune response. Molecules have been identified in tick saliva that effect T cell proliferation by binding to specific cytokines, thereby promoting a Th2 cytokine response that does not afford protection against tick-transmitted B. burgdorferi in mice. Moreover, reconstitution of a Th1-biased T cell response prior to spirochete challenge effectively neutralizes tick modulation of host immunity and affords protection against tick transmission of spirochetes. The current studies were undertaken to determine the effect of neutralizing specific Th2 cytokines prior to tick feeding and subsequent transmission of B. burgdorferi. The results indicate that suppression of both IL-4 and IL-5 prior to the feeding of B. burgdorferi-infected ticks significantly decreased spirochete load in target organs such as joint, bladder, heart, and skin of the Lyme disease-susceptible host.
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