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PLoS One. 2018 Feb 8;13(2):e0191725. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191725. eCollection 2018.

Human Borrelia miyamotoi infection in California: Serodiagnosis is complicated by multiple endemic Borrelia species.

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Department of Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, United States of America.
Department of Infectious Diseases, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States of America.
Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA, United States of America.


To determine whether human Borrelia miyamotoi infection occurs in the far-western United States, we tested archived sera from northwestern California residents for antibodies to this emerging relapsing fever spirochete. These residents frequently were exposed to I. pacificus ticks in a region where B. miyamotoi tick infection has been reported. We used a two-step B. miyamotoi rGlpQ assay and a B. miyamotoi whole-cell lysate (WCL) assay to detect B. miyamotoi antibody. We also employed Borrelia hermsii and Borrelia burgdorferi WCL assays to examine if these Borrelia induce cross reacting antibody to B. miyamotoi. Sera were collected from 101 residents in each of two consecutive years. The sera of 12 and 14 residents in years one and two, respectively, were B. miyamotoi rGlpQ seroreactive. Sufficient sera were available to test 15 of the 26 seropositive samples using B. miyamotoi and B. hermsii WCL assays. Two residents in year one and seven residents in year two were seroreactive to both Borrelia antigens. Although discernible differences in seroreactivity were evident between the B. miyamotoi and B. hermsii WCL assays, infection with one or the other could not be determined with certainty. Sera from two Borrelia burgdorferi /B. miyamotoi seropositive subjects reacted strongly against B. miyamotoi and B. hermsii WCL antigens. Ecological, epidemiological, and clinical data implicated B. miyamotoi as the probable cause of infection among those whose sera reacted against both antigens. Our findings suggest that human B. miyamotoi infection occurs in northern California and that B. hermsii and B. burgdorferi infections produce antibodies that cross-react with B. miyamotoi antigens. Health care professionals in the far-western United States should be aware that B. miyamotoi disease may occur throughout the geographic distribution of I. pacificus and that improved relapsing fever group spirochete antibody assays are urgently needed.

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