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J Neuroinflammation. 2017 Aug 31;14(1):173. doi: 10.1186/s12974-017-0948-9.

Cerebrospinal fluid CXCL13 as a diagnostic marker of neuroborreliosis in children: a retrospective case-control study.

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Institute of Infectious Diseases, University of Bern, Friedbühlstrasse 51, 3001, Bern, Switzerland.
Department of Pediatrics, Bern University Hospital, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
Institute of Infectious Diseases, University of Bern, Friedbühlstrasse 51, 3001, Bern, Switzerland.



Lyme neuroborreliosis (LNB) is a frequent manifestation of Lyme disease in children and its current diagnosis has limitations. The elevation of the chemokine CXCL13 in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of adult patients with LNB has been demonstrated and suggested as a new diagnostic marker. Our aim was to evaluate this marker in the CSF of children with suspected LNB and to determine a CXCL13 cut-off concentration that would discriminate between LNB and other central nervous system (CNS) infections.


For this single-center retrospective case-control study we used a diagnostic-approved ELISA to measure CXCL13 concentrations in the CSF of 185 children with LNB suspicion at presentation. Patients were classified into definite LNB (cases), non-LNB (controls with other CNS affections), and possible LNB. A receiver-operating characteristic curve was generated by comparison of cases and controls.


CXCL13 was significantly elevated in the CSF of 53 children with definite LNB (median 774.7 pg/ml) compared to 91 control patients (median 4.5 pg/ml, p < 0.001). A cut-off of 55 pg/ml resulted in a sensitivity of 96.7% and a specificity of 98.1% for the diagnosis of definite LNB and the test exhibited a diagnostic odds ratio of 1525.3. Elevated CSF CXCL13 levels were also detected in three controls with viral meningitis (enterovirus n = 1, varicella-zoster virus n = 2) while other CNS affections such as idiopathic facial palsy did not lead to CXCL13 elevation. Of the 41 patients with possible LNB, 27% had CXCL13 values above the cut-off of 55 pg/ml (median 16.7 pg/ml).


CSF CXCL13 is highly elevated in children during early LNB as previously shown in adults. CXCL13 is a highly sensitive and specific marker that helps to differentiate LNB from other CNS affections in children.


Antibody index; CXCL13; Cerebrospinal fluid; Lyme neuroborreliosis; Sensitivity; Specificity

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