Complement immune evasion by spirochetes

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The complement system plays an important role in the innate and acquired immune response against pathogens. A sophisticated network of activating and regulating proteins allows the distinction between intact and damaged host and non-host surfaces such as bacteria and other parasites. Non-host structures trigger the alternative pathway which may lead to their elimination by phagocytosis or cell lysis. In addition, complement proteins such as C1q, mannose binding lectin (MBL), and ficolins act as pathogen pattern-recognition molecules. Biological functions such as opsonization, activation of B lymphocytes and production of antibodies, degranulation of mast cells and basophils, and cell lysis that are important for elimination of microorganisms are dependent on complement activation. However, several pathogens including spirochetes have developed several specialized mechanisms to evade the complement system, thereby contributing to survival in the host. In this review, we give a brief overview of complement activation and regulation, and discuss in detail the strategies used by spirochetes from the genera Borrelia, Leptospira, and Treponema to overcome complement activation.
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