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J Clin Microbiol. 2014 Mar;52(3):721-4. doi: 10.1128/JCM.01674-13. Epub 2013 Aug 14.

Assessment of new culture method for detection of Borrelia species from serum of lyme disease patients.

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Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Clin Microbiol. 2014 May;52(5):1808.


A novel method of culturing spirochetes from the serum of U.S. Lyme disease patients was recently reported by Sapi and colleagues to have 94% sensitivity and 100% specificity for Borrelia species as assessed by microscopy and DNA sequence analysis of the pyrG gene (E. Sapi, N. Pabbati, A. Datar, E. M. Davies, A. Rattelle, and B. A. Kuo, Int. J. Med. Sci. 10:362-376, 2013). The majority of the spirochetes described were related by pyrG sequences to species of Borrelia previously undetected in North American patients without a reported history of travel to Europe or Asia. To better understand these unexpected findings, we determined pyrG sequences of the laboratory reference strains used by the investigators for method development and testing of culture medium. Eighty percent (41/51) of the reported patient-derived pyrG sequences were identical to one of the laboratory strains, and an additional 12% (6/51) differed by only a single nucleotide across a 603-bp region of the pyrG gene. Thus, false positivity due to laboratory contamination of patient samples cannot be ruled out, and further validation of the proposed novel culture method is required.

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