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J Cutan Pathol. 1997 Sep;24(8):457-61.

Infection by Borrelia burgdorferi and cutaneous B-cell lymphoma.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Graz, Austria.


In past years, association of primary cutaneous B-cell lymphoma (CBCL) with infection by Borrelia burgdorferi has been reported in a few patients. The evidence for a pathogenetic role was based on clinical grounds or raised titre of antibodies in serum. Both methods, however, do not prove the association between the micro-organism and the CBCL, especially in countries where infection by Borrelia burgdorferi is endemic. Moreover, the exact percentage of Borrelia burgdorferi-positive CBCL is not known. We retrieved from our files 50 cases of CBCL to perform PCR analysis of Borrelia burgdorferi DNA on paraffin-embedded tissue sections. Only patients with primary CBCL were selected. In all cases, monoclonality of the infiltrate was confirmed by immunohistological pattern of immunoglobulin light chains or molecular analysis of JH gene rearrangement, or both. Specific DNA sequences of Borrelia burgdorferi were identified in cutaneous lesions from 9 patients (follicle center lymphoma: 3/20; immunocytoma: 3/4; marginal zone B-cell lymphoma: 2/20; diffuse large B-cell lymphoma: 1/6). Specificity was confirmed by Southern blot hybridisation in all positive cases. We could show that Borrelia burgdorferi DNA is present in skin lesions from a small proportion of patients (18%) with various types of CBCL. Our results may have therapeutic implications. In analogy to Helicobacter pylori-associated MALT-lymphomas, which in some cases can be cured by eradication of Helicobacter pylori infection, a proportion of CBCL may be cured with antibiotic therapy against Borrelia burgdorferi. Although yet speculative, adequate antibiotic treatment for patients with primary CBCL should be considered before more aggressive therapeutic options are applied, particularly in countries where infection by Borrelia burgdorferi is endemic. PCR analysis of Borrelia burgdorferi DNA is a fast test that should be performed in all patients with CBCL to identify those who more likely could benefit from an early antibiotic treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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