Manganese, ticks and Lyme disease
Working with mice, researchers have identified a protein that may help thousands of people in the USA who contract Lyme disease each year. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that live in the midgut of ticks. It is transmitted when the ticks bite humans and animals. Infection causes fever, tiredness, headache, muscle and joint aches.
The researchers found a metal transporter responsible for the transport of manganese. It is thought that transporters such as these are essential for the bacteria to establish infection in mammals by recruiting key nutrients.
When they genetically engineered bacteria to lack the metal transporter, the bacteria could not grow in mice. This discovery may lead to new strategies for thwarting Lyme disease; the next step is to understand the importance of manganese in the bacteria.