Evading innate immunity is a prerequisite for pathogenic microorganisms in order to survive in their respective hosts. Concerning Lyme disease spirochetes belonging to the Borrelia
sensu lato group, a broad range of diverse vertebrates serve as reservoir or even as incidental hosts, including humans. The capability to infect multiple hosts implies that spirochetes have developed sophisticated means to counter the destructive effects of complement of humans and various animals. While the means by which spirochetes overcome the hosts immune defense are far from being completely understood, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that binding of the key regulator of the alternative pathway, Factor H, plays a pivotal role for immune evasion and that Factor H is an important determinant of host specificity. This review covers (i) the contribution of complement in host-specificity and transmissibility of Lyme disease spirochetes; (ii) the involvement of borrelial-derived determinants to host specificity; (iii) the interplay of human and animal Factor H with complement-acquiring surface proteins of diverse borrelial species; and (iv) the potential role of additional animal complement proteins in the immune evasion of spirochetes.
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