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J Clin Microbiol. 1993 Feb;31(2):340-50.

An OspA serotyping system for Borrelia burgdorferi based on reactivity with monoclonal antibodies and OspA sequence analysis.

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Max von Pettenkofer Institut für Hygiene und Medizinische Mikrobiologie, Universität München, Germany.


A total of 136 Borrelia burgdorferi sensu latu strains from various biological sources (ticks, human skin, and cerebrospinal fluid) and geographical sources (Europe and North America) were investigated by Western blot (immunoblot) with eight monoclonal antibodies against different epitopes of the outer surface protein A (OspA). On the basis of the differential reactivities of these monoclonal antibodies, seven OspA serotypes were defined. As determined by 16S rRNA sequence analysis, these serotypes correlated well with recently delineated genospecies: serotype 1 corresponds to B. burgdorferi sensu strictu, serotype 2 corresponds to group VS461, and serotypes 3 to 7 correspond to Borrelia garinii sp. nov. (G. Baranton, D. Postic, I. Saint Girons, P. Boerlin, J.-C. Piffaretti, M. Assous, and P. A. D. Grimont, Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 42:378-383, 1992). Antigenic differences were confirmed by partial sequence analysis of OspA of representatives of each serotype. Comparative sequence analysis suggested that serotype 5 OspA resulted from genetic recombination of serotype 4 and 6 ospA genes. Serotype 2 (group VS461) was most prevalent among European skin isolates (49 of 62 isolates). Among all B. garinii strains included in this study, serotype 6 was most frequently found in ticks and only rarely in human skin and cerebrospinal fluid, whereas serotypes 4 and 5 were isolated from patients but never from ticks. Our data suggest different pathogenic potentials and organotropisms of distinct OspA serotypes and raise the question of true antigenic variation among B. garinii strains.

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