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J Clin Microbiol. 1995 Sep;33(9):2260-4.

Antibodies against whole sonicated Borrelia burgdorferi spirochetes, 41-kilodalton flagellin, and P39 protein in patients with PCR- or culture-proven late Lyme borreliosis.

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Department of Medicine, Turku University Central Hospital, Finland.


The sensitivities and specificities of three enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) for Borrelia burgdorferi antibodies were compared for 41 patients presenting with symptoms compatible with late Lyme borreliosis (LB) and 37 healthy controls. All subjects were living in southwestern Finland, where LB is endemic. Only patients with culture- or PCR-proven disease were enrolled in the study. The antigens of the ELISAs consisted of sonicated spirochetes, 41-kDa flagellin, and recombinant P39 protein of B. burgdorferi. Fifteen patients had strongly or moderately positive results in the serological assay(s), 19 patients had only weakly positive or borderline antibody levels, and the remaining 7 patients were seronegative by ELISA. The sensitivities of the ELISAs were 78.0% with sonicate antigen, 41.5% with 41-kDa flagellin, and 14.6% with P39 protein. The specificities of the tests were 89.2, 86.5, and 94.6%, respectively. The sonicate antigen ELISA seems to be an effective screening method. These results show that antibodies to B. burgdorferi may be present in low levels or even absent in patients with culture- or PCR-proven late LB. Therefore, in addition to serological testing, the use of PCR and cultivation is recommended in the diagnosis of LB.

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