These studies addressed the hypothesis that UV radiation (UVR) could affect immune responses in mice infected with Borrelia burgdorferi. Immunity against the Lyme spirochete B. burgdorferi was studied in a murine model of UV-induced immune suppression. Borrelia-specific cellular and humoral responses were examined following immunosuppressive doses of UVR. Low-passage Borrelia were injected intradermally at the base of the tail following irradiation. At various time points after infection the blood was cultured for the presence of Borrelia and the serum analyzed for Borrelia-specific antibodies. Two weeks after infection one hind-limb joint was cultured for the presence of spirochetes and the contralateral joint was examined histologically for arthritis formation. The results demonstrated that UV irradiation, administered at the site of infection or at a distant site, suppressed Borrelia-specific cellular and humoral responses in infected mice. Suppression of delayed-type hypersensitivity and antibody responses to UV was abrogated by administration of anti–interleukin (IL)-10 after UV irradiation. In addition, UV irradiation altered the dissemination pattern of the bacteria from the skin into the blood and exacerbated arthritis when compared with unirradiated controls. From these studies we concluded that UV irradiation can modulate the immune response to Borrelia and exacerbate the subsequent arthritic component of Lyme disease in mice. Furthermore, our studies suggest that IL-10 is in part responsible for the suppression of both cellular and humoral responses in addition to playing a role in the development of Lyme arthritis.
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Vol. 73 • No. 5