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Ann Med. 2005;37(8):568-79.

Epidemiology and diagnosis of Lyme borreliosis.

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Max von Pettenkofer-Institute, University of Munich, National Reference Center for Borreliae, Pettenkofer-Strasse 9a, D-80336 Munich, Germany.


The multisystem disease Lyme borreliosis is the most frequent tick-transmitted disease in the northern hemisphere. In Europe Lyme borreliosis is most frequent in Central Europe and Scandinavia (up to 155 cases per 100,000 individuals) and is caused by the species, B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, B. afzelii and B. garinii. The recently detected genospecies A14S may also play a role in skin manifestations. Microbiological diagnosis in European patients must consider the heterogeneity of borreliae for development of diagnostic tools. According to guidelines of the USA and Germany, serological diagnosis should follow the principle of a two-step procedure (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) as first step, if reactive; followed by immunoblot). The sensitivity and standardization of immunoblots has been considerably enhanced by use of recombinant antigens (p100, p58, p41i, VlsE, OspC, DbpA) including those expressed primarily in vivo (VlsE and DbpA) instead of whole cell lysates. VlsE is the most sensitive antigen for IgG antibody detection, OspC for IgM antibody detection. At present, detection rates for serum antibodies are 20%-50% in stage I, 70%-90% in stage II, and nearly 100% in stage III Lyme disease. Detection of the etiological agent by culture or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) should be confined to specific indications and specialized laboratories. Recommended specimens are skin biopsy specimens, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and synovial fluid. The best results are obtained from skin biopsies with culture or PCR (50%-70%) and synovial tissue or fluid (50%-70% with PCR). CSF yields positive results in only 10%-30% of patients except when the duration of symptoms is shorter than 2 weeks (50% sensitivity). Methods which are not recommended or adequately documented for diagnosis are antigen tests on body fluids, PCR of urine, and lymphocyte transformation tests.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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