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JAMA. 1990 Dec 12;264(22):2916-8.

Positive Lyme serology in subacute bacterial endocarditis. A study of four patients.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook 11794-8161.


Lyme borreliosis is a multisystem inflammatory disorder caused by the tick-borne spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Clinical manifestations are protean, involving the skin, joints, peripheral and central nervous systems, and the heart. However, the presentation of Lyme disease often overlaps with that of other conditions. We describe four patients from a region endemic for Lyme disease who had elevated levels of antibodies reactive to B burgdorferi and whose signs and symptoms were initially attributed to Lyme borreliosis but whose subsequent blood cultures established a diagnosis of nonspirochetal subacute bacterial endocarditis. Although immunoblots on serum samples from three of the four patients were consistent with prior infection from B burgdorferi, a positive immunoblot does not establish active infection. Similarly, seropositivity to B burgdorferi only indicates possible exposure to this organism. The occurrence of positive serologies to B burgdorferi in the presence of other diseases can lead to diagnostic confusion.

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