Swimming dynamics of the lyme disease spirochete

Dhruv K. Vig, Charles W. Wolgemuth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, swims by undulating its cell body in the form of a traveling flat wave, a process driven by rotating internal flagella. We study B. burgdorferi's swimming by treating the cell body and flagella as linearly elastic filaments. The dynamics of the cell are then determined from the balance between elastic and resistive forces and moments. We find that planar, traveling waves only exist when the flagella are effectively anchored at both ends of the bacterium and that these traveling flat waves rotate as they undulate. The model predicts how the undulation frequency is related to the torque from the flagellar motors and how the stiffness of the cell body and flagella affect the undulations and morphology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number218104
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 21 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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