Protein in Human Sweat: New Discovery for Lyme Disease Prevention and Therapeutics?

Nature Communications (Strausz, S., et al.) 03.19.2024, published, “SCGB1D2 inhibits growth of Borrelia burgdorferi and affects susceptibility to Lyme disease.” In this study, researchers at MIT and the University of Helsinki utilized epidemiological and genetic data from 617,731 individuals, including 25,355 individuals with Lyme disease, from FinnGen and Estonian Biobank, to conduct a genome-wide association study. Analysis of data identified two previously known variants associated with Lyme disease and an unknown, secretoglobin protein (SCGB1D2). This protein is produced primarily by cells in the sweat glands and has been found to influence the susceptibility for Lyme disease. They discovered a mutated genetic variant of this protein (SCGB1D2 P53L) specific for Lyme disease, is present in about 1/3 of the population, and is not associated with any other infection, disease, traits.  

In-vitro studies showed that when exposed to the normal version of the protein (SCGB1D2), growth of the Lyme bacteria was significantly inhibited. The mutant variant (SCGB1D2 P53L) was not as effective, requiring twice as much protein to suppress the bacterial growth. In-vivo studies were also conducted using a mouse model. Mice became infected with Lyme disease when injected with the bacteria exposed to the mutant protein. Mice were uninfected when injected with Lyme bacteria exposed to the normal version of SCGB1D2, and they remained uninfected at 30 days post injection.

Findings of this study provide a promising mechanism to investigate drug development of therapeutics to both prevent and treat Lyme disease. Researchers plan to investigate whether applying the protein to the skin of mice, could prevent them from being infected by Borrelia burgdorferi. They also plan to explore the potential of the protein as a treatment for infections that don’t respond to the current antibiotics used to treat Lyme disease.


For More Information:

Read Nature Communications Article

Read MIT News Article

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