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1.  Genetic Heterogeneity of Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato in the Southern United States Based on Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism and Sequence Analysis 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2001;39(7):2500-2507.
Fifty-six strains of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, isolated from ticks and vertebrate animals in Missouri, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Texas, were identified and characterized by PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of rrf (5S)-rrl (23S) intergenic spacer amplicons. A total of 241 to 258 bp of intergenic spacers between tandemly duplicated rrf (5S) and rrl (23S) was amplified by PCR. MseI and DraI restriction fragment polymorphisms were used to analyze these strains. PCR-RFLP analysis results indicated that the strains represented at least three genospecies and 10 different restriction patterns. Most of the strains isolated from the tick Ixodes dentatus in Missouri and Georgia belonged to the genospecies Borrelia andersonii. Excluding the I. dentatus strains, most southern strains, isolated from the ticks Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes affinis, the cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus), and cotton mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus) in Georgia and Florida, belonged to Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto. Seven strains, isolated from Ixodes minor, the wood rat (Neotoma floridana), the cotton rat, and the cotton mouse in South Carolina and Florida, belonged to Borrelia bissettii. Two strains, MI-8 from Florida and TXW-1 from Texas, exhibited MseI and DraI restriction patterns different from those of previously reported genospecies. Eight Missouri tick strains (MOK-3a group) had MseI patterns similar to that of B. andersonii reference strain 21038 but had a DraI restriction site in the spacer. Strain SCGT-8a had DraI restriction patterns identical to that of strain 25015 (B. bissettii) but differed from strain 25015 in its MseI restriction pattern. Strain AI-1 had the same DraI pattern as other southern strains in the B. bissettii genospecies but had a distinct MseI profile. The taxonomic status of these atypical strains needs to be further evaluated. To clarify the taxonomic positions of these atypical Borrelia strains, the complete sequences of rrf-rrl intergenic spacers from 20 southeastern and Missouri strains were determined. The evolutionary and phylogenetic relationships of these strains were compared with those of the described genospecies in the B. burgdorferi sensu lato species complex. The 20 strains clustered into five separate lineages on the basis of sequence analysis. MI-8 and TXW-1 appeared to belong to two different undescribed genospecies, although TXW-1 was closely related to Borrelia garinii. The MOK-3a group separated into a distinct deep branch in the B. andersonii lineage. PCR-RFLP analysis results and the results of sequence analyses of the rrf-rrl intergenic spacer confirm that greater genetic heterogeneity exists among B. burgdorferi sensu lato strains isolated from the southern United States than among strains isolated from the northern United States. The B. andersonii genospecies and its MOK-3a subgroup are associated with the I. dentatus-cottontail rabbit enzootic cycle, but I. scapularis was also found to harbor a strain of this genospecies. Strains that appear to be B. bissettii in our study were isolated from I. minor and the cotton mouse, cotton rat, and wood rat. The B. burgdorferi sensu stricto strains from the south are genetically and phenotypically similar to the B31 reference strain.
PMCID: PMC88176  PMID: 11427560
2.  Borrelia carolinensis sp. nov., a New (14th) Member of the Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato Complex from the Southeastern Region of the United States ▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2008;47(1):134-141.
Approximately 118 Borrelia isolates were cultured from a variety of rodents, birds, and ticks collected in the southern United States. In addition to a highly diverse group of Borrelia bissettii strains and a homogenous group of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto strains, a group of 16 isolates with unusual characteristics was found. The isolates were cultured from ear biopsy samples of the rodents Peromyscus gossypinus and Neotoma floridana trapped at five localities in South Carolina. A multilocus sequence analysis of the rrf-rrl intergenic spacer, 16S rRNA, fla, ospA, and p66 genes were used to clarify the taxonomic status of the new group of B. burgdorferi sensu lato isolates. Thirteen species of the B. burgdorferi sensu lato complex were used as controls. Unique restriction fragment length polymorphism patterns of the rrf-rrl intergenic spacer region and fla gene were recognized. Unique signature nucleotides were also found in the 16S rRNA gene. A phylogenetic analysis shows that the 16 new isolates cluster together but separately from the other species in the B. burgdorferi sensu lato complex. Our data strongly support the recognition of the 16 isolates as a new B. burgdorferi sensu lato species. We propose to name this genospecies “Borrelia carolinensis” with respect to the place of its currently known geographic location.
PMCID: PMC2620843  PMID: 19020062
3.  Isolation of Lyme Disease Borrelia from Puffins (Fratercula arctica) and Seabird Ticks (Ixodes uriae) on the Faeroe Islands 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1999;37(4):890-896.
This is the first report on the isolation of Lyme disease Borrelia from seabirds on the Faeroe Islands and the characteristics of its enzootic cycle. The major components of the Borrelia cycle include the puffin (Fratercula arctica) as the reservoir and Ixodes uriae as the vector. The importance of this cycle and its impact on the spread of human Lyme borreliosis have not yet been established. Borrelia spirochetes isolated from 2 of 102 sampled puffins were compared to the borreliae previously obtained from seabird ticks, I. uriae. The rrf-rrl intergenic spacer and the rrs and the ospC genes were sequenced and a series of phylogenetic trees were constructed. Sequence data and restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis grouped the strains together with Borrelia garinii. In a seroepidemiological survey performed with residents involved in puffin hunting on the Faeroe Islands, 3 of 81 serum samples were found to be positive by two commonly used clinical tests: a flagellin-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and Western blotting. These three positive serum samples also had high optical density values in a whole-cell ELISA. The finding of seropositive Faeroe Islanders who are regularly exposed to I. uriae indicate that there may be a transfer of B. garinii by this tick species to humans.
PMCID: PMC84640  PMID: 10074497
4.  Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Stricto Is Clonal in Patients with Early Lyme Borreliosis ▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(16):5008-5014.
Lyme borreliosis, the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in North America, is caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Given the extensive genetic polymorphism of B. burgdorferi, elucidation of the population genetic structure of the bacterium in clinical samples may be relevant for understanding disease pathogenesis and may have applicability for the development of diagnostic tests and vaccine preparations. In this investigation, the genetic polymorphism of the 16S-23S rRNA (rrs-rrlA) intergenic spacer and ospC was investigated at the sequence level in 127 clinical isolates obtained from patients with early Lyme borreliosis evaluated in suburban New York City. Sixteen distinct rrs-rrlA and 16 distinct ospC alleles were identified, representing virtually all of the genotypes previously found in questing Ixodes scapularis nymphs in this region. In addition, a new ospC group was identified in a single patient. The strong linkage observed between the chromosome-located rrs-rrlA and plasmid-borne ospC genes suggests a clonal structure of B. burgdorferi in these isolates, despite evidence of recombination at ospC.
PMCID: PMC2519259  PMID: 18539816
5.  First Detection and Molecular Identification of Borrelia garinii Spirochete from Ixodes ovatus Tick Ectoparasitized on Stray Cat in Taiwan 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110599.
Borrelia garinii spirochete was detected for the first time in Ixodes ovatus tick ectoparasitized on stray cat in Taiwan. The genetic identity of this detected spirochete was determined by analyzing the gene sequence amplified by genospecies-specific polymerase chain reaction assays based on the 5S–23S intergenic spacer amplicon (rrf-rrl) and outer surface protein A (ospA) genes of B. burgdorferi sensu lato. Phylogenetic relationships were analyzed by comparing the sequences of rrf-rrl and ospA genes obtained from 27 strains of Borrelia spirochetes representing six genospecies of Borrelia. Seven major clades can be easily distinguished by neighbour-joining analysis and were congruent by maximum-parsimony method. Phylogenetic analysis based on rrf-rrl gene revealed that this detected spirochete (strain IO-TP-TW) was genetically affiliated to the same clade with a high homogeneous sequences (96.7 to 98.1% similarity) within the genospecies of B. garinii and can be discriminated from other genospecies of Borrelia spirochetes. Interspecies analysis based on the genetic distance values indicates a lower level (<0.022) of genetic divergence (GD) within the genospecies of B. garinii, and strain IO-TP-TW was genetically more distant ( >0.113) to the strains identified in I. ovatus collected from Japan and China. Intraspecies analysis also reveals a higher homogeneity (GD<0.005) between tick (strain IO-TP-TW) and human (strain Bg-PP-TW1) isolates of B. garinii in Taiwan. This study provides the first evidence of B. garinii isolated and identified in an I. ovatus tick in Asia, and the higher homogeneity of B. garinii between tick and human strain may imply the risk of human infection by I. ovatus bite.
PMCID: PMC4208787  PMID: 25343260
6.  Molecular Typing of Borrelia burgdorferi 
Current protocols in microbiology  2014;34:12C.5.1-12C.5.31.
Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato is a group of spirochetes belonging to the genus Borrelia in the family of Spirochaetaceae. The spirochete is transmitted between reservoirs and hosts by ticks of the family Ixodidae. Infection with B. burgdorferi in humans causes Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis. Currently, 20 Lyme disease-associated Borrelia species and more than 20 relapsing fever-associated Borrelia species have been described. Identification and differentiation of different Borrelia species and strains is largely dependent on analyses of their genetic characteristics. A variety of molecular techniques have been described for Borrelia isolate speciation, molecular epidemiology, and pathogenicity studies. In this unit, we focus on three basic protocols, PCR-RFLP-based typing of the rrs-rrlA and rrfA-rrlB ribosomal spacer, ospC typing, and MLST. These protocols can be employed alone or in combination for characterization of B. burgdorferi isolates or directly on uncultivated organisms in ticks, mammalian host reservoirs, and human clinical specimens.
PMCID: PMC4317198  PMID: 25082003
spirochetes; molecular typing; OspC; MLST; Borrelia burgdorferi; Lyme disease
7.  Expanded Diversity among Californian Borrelia Isolates and Description of Borrelia bissettii sp. nov. (Formerly Borrelia Group DN127) 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1998;36(12):3497-3504.
Up to now, the only species in the complex Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato known to cause Lyme borreliosis in the United States has been B. burgdorferi sensu stricto. However, some atypical strains closely related to the previously designated genomic group DN127 have been isolated in the United States, mostly in California. To explore the diversity of B. burgdorferi sensu lato group DN127, we analyzed the nucleotide sequences of the rrf-rrl intergenic spacer regions from 19 atypical strains (18 from California and one from New York) and 13 North American B. burgdorferi sensu stricto strains (6 from California). The spacer region sequences from the entire B. burgdorferi sensu lato complex available in data banks were used for comparison. Phylogenetic analysis of sequences shows that the main species of the B. burgdorferi sensu lato complex (B. afzelii, B. garinii, B. andersonii, B. japonica, B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, B. valaisiana, and B. lusitaniae) each form a coherent cluster. A heterogeneous group comprising strains belonging to the previously designated group DN127 clustered separately from B. burgdorferi sensu stricto. Within this cluster, the deep branches expressing the distances between the rrf-rrl sequences reflect a high level of divergence. This unexpected diversity contrasts with the monomorphism exhibited by B. burgdorferi sensu stricto. To clarify the taxonomic status of this highly heterogeneous group, analysis of the rrs sequences of selected strains chosen from deeply separated branches was performed. The results show that these strains significantly diverge at a level that is compatible with several distinct genomic groups. We conclude that the taxonomy and phylogeny of North American B. burgdorferi sensu lato should be reevaluated. For now, we propose that the genomic group DN127 should be referred to as a new species, B. bissettii sp. nov., and that other related but distinct strains, which require further characterization, be referred to as Borrelia spp.
PMCID: PMC105228  PMID: 9817861
8.  Molecular Characterization of Borrelia persica, the Agent of Tick Borne Relapsing Fever in Israel and the Palestinian Authority 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e14105.
The identification of the Tick Borne Relapsing Fever (TBRF) agent in Israel and the Palestinian Authority relies on the morphology and the association of Borrelia persica with its vector Ornithodoros tholozani. Molecular based data on B. persica are very scarce as the organism is still non-cultivable. In this study, we were able to sequence three complete 16S rRNA genes, 12 partial flaB genes, 18 partial glpQ genes, 16 rrs-ileT intergenic spacers (IGS) from nine ticks and ten human blood samples originating from the West Bank and Israel. In one sample we sequenced 7231 contiguous base pairs that covered completely the region from the 5′end of the 16S rRNA gene to the 5′end of the 23S rRNA gene comprising the whole 16S rRNA (rrs), and the following genes: Ala tRNA (alaT), Ile tRNA (ileT), adenylosuccinate lyase (purB), adenylosuccinate synthetase (purA), methylpurine-DNA glycosylase (mag), hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyltransferase (hpt), an hydrolase (HAD superfamily) and a 135 bp 5′ fragment of the 23S rRNA (rrlA) genes. Phylogenic sequence analysis defined all the Borrelia isolates from O. tholozani and from human TBRF cases in Israel and the West Bank as B. persica that clustered between the African and the New World TBRF species. Gene organization of the intergenic spacer between the 16S rRNA and the 23S rRNA was similar to that of other TBRF Borrelia species and different from the Lyme disease Borrelia species. Variants of B. persica were found among the different genes of the different isolates even in the same sampling area.
PMCID: PMC2991353  PMID: 21124792
9.  Borrelia carolinensis sp. nov., a novel species of the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex isolated from rodents and a tick from the south-eastern USA 
A group of 16 isolates with genotypic characteristics different from those of known species of the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex were cultured from ear biopsies of the rodents Peromyscus gossypinus and Neotoma floridana trapped at five localities in South Carolina, USA, and from the tick Ixodes minor feeding on N. floridana. Multilocus sequence analysis of members of the novel species, involving the 16S rRNA gene, the 5S–23S (rrf–rrl) intergenic spacer region and the flagellin, ospA and p66 genes, was conducted and published previously and was used to clarify the taxonomic status of the novel group of B. burgdorferi sensu lato isolates. Phylogenetic analysis based on concatenated sequences of the five analysed genomic loci showed that the 16 isolates clustered together but separately from other species in the B. burgdorferi sensu lato complex. The analysed group therefore represents a novel species, formally described here as Borrelia carolinensis sp. nov., with the type strain SCW-22T (=ATCC BAA-1773T =DSM 22119T).
PMCID: PMC3081087  PMID: 20305062
10.  Physical map of the linear chromosome of the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi 212, a causative agent of Lyme disease, and localization of rRNA genes. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1992;174(11):3766-3774.
The spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease, and other members of the Borrelia genus are unique among characterized bacteria in having a linear chromosome. A restriction map of the chromosome of B. burgdorferi 212 was constructed by making extensive use of digestions in agarose blocks of restriction endonuclease fragments or chromosomal DNA that had been purified by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. A total of 47 digestion sites for the enzymes SgrAI, SacII, MluI, BssHII, EagI, SmaI, NaeI, and ApaI were located. In most regions of the map, the gap between sites is 50 kbp or less, and 122 kbp is the largest distance between adjacent sites. The mapping data were consistent with previous conclusions that the B. burgdorferi chromosome is linear. The total size of the B. burgdorferi 212 chromosome was determined to be 946 kbp from the sums of the sizes of SacII, MluI, BssHII, and SmaI fragments, making it one of the smallest known bacterial chromosomes. The rRNA genes were found to be located near the center of the chromosome. One copy of the 16S rRNA gene (rrs) and two copies of the 23S rRNA gene (designated rrlA and rrlB), the latter pair in a tandem repeat, were detected. This particular complement of these two genes has not been reported for another bacterium.
PMCID: PMC206067  PMID: 1592827
11.  Associations of passerine birds, rabbits, and ticks with Borrelia miyamotoi and Borrelia andersonii in Michigan, U.S.A. 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:231.
Wild birds contribute to maintenance and dissemination of vectors and microbes, including those that impact human, domestic animal, and wildlife health. Here we elucidate roles of wild passerine birds, eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus), and Ixodes dentatus ticks in enzootic cycles of two spirochetes, Borrelia miyamotoi and B. andersonii in a region of Michigan where the zoonotic pathogen B. burgdorferi co-circulates.
Over a four-year period, wild birds (n = 19,631) and rabbits (n = 20) were inspected for tick presence and ear tissue was obtained from rabbits. Samples were tested for Borrelia spirochetes using nested PCR of the 16S-23S rRNA intergenic spacer region (IGS) and bidirectional DNA sequencing. Natural xenodiagnosis was used to implicate wildlife reservoirs.
Ixodes dentatus, a tick that specializes on birds and rabbits and rarely bites humans, was the most common tick found, comprising 86.5% of the 12,432 ticks collected in the study. The relapsing fever group spirochete B. miyamotoi was documented for the first time in ticks removed from wild birds (0.7% minimum infection prevalence; MIP, in I. dentatus), and included two IGS strains. The majority of B. miyamotoi-positive ticks were removed from Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis). Borrelia andersonii infected ticks removed from birds (1.6% MIP), ticks removed from rabbits (5.3% MIP), and rabbit ear biopsies (5%) comprised twelve novel IGS strains. Six species of wild birds were implicated as reservoirs for B. andersonii. Frequency of I. dentatus larval and nymphal co-feeding on birds was ten times greater than expected by chance. The relatively well-studied ecology of I. scapularis and the Lyme disease pathogen provides a context for understanding how the phenology of bird ticks may impact B. miyamotoi and B. andersonii prevalence and host associations.
Given the current invasion of I. scapularis, a human biting species that serves as a bridge vector for Borrelia spirochetes, human exposure to B. miyamotoi and B. andersonii in this region may increase. The presence of these spirochetes underscores the ecological complexity within which Borrelia organisms are maintained and the need for diagnostic tests to differentiate among these organisms.
PMCID: PMC3497883  PMID: 23057837
Ticks; Borrelia miyamotoi; Borrelia andersonii; Ixodes; Wild birds; Eastern cottontail rabbit; Relapsing fever; Lyme disease
12.  Identification of Three Clinically Relevant Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato Genospecies by PCR-Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism Analysis of 16S-23S Ribosomal DNA Spacer Amplicons 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2004;42(4):1444-1449.
We report the results of a study of the prevalences of three clinically relevant Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato genospecies (Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia afzelii, and Borrelia garinii) in 1,040 questing Ixodes ticks from all regions of Latvia, where Lyme borreliosis is endemic. The prevalences of Borrelia in Ixodes ricinus and Ixodes persulcatus were 22.6 and 27.9%, respectively. Molecular typing of B. burgdorferi from infected ticks was performed by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of PCR-amplified fragments of the 16S-23S (rrs-rrlA) rRNA intergenic spacer by using species-specific primers and subsequent sequencing. The dominant Borrelia species in both Ixodes species was B. afzelii. In addition, different restriction patterns of B. garinii and B. afzelii were also identified. This study demonstrates that the 16S-23S rRNA PCR-RFLP typing method is simple, sensitive, and fast and that it allows one to differentiate among B. burgdorferi species and subspecies with various degrees of pathogenic potential directly in ticks. These features are important in monitoring Lyme disease.
PMCID: PMC387532  PMID: 15070987
13.  Genetic Variability within Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato Genospecies Established by PCR-Single-Strand Conformation Polymorphism Analysis of the rrfA-rrlB Intergenic Spacer in Ixodes ricinus Ticks from the Czech Republic 
In Europe the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex is represented by five distinct genospecies: Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia afzelii, Borrelia garinii, Borrelia valaisiana, and Borrelia lusitaniae. These taxonomic entities are known to differ in their specific associations with vertebrate hosts and to provoke distinct clinical manifestations in human patients. However, exceptions to these rules have often been observed, indicating that strains belonging to a single genospecies may be more heterogeneous than expected. It is, therefore, important to develop alternative identification tools which are able to distinguish Borrelia strains not only at the specific level but also at the intraspecific level. DNA from a sample of 370 Ixodes ricinus ticks collected in the Czech Republic was analyzed by PCR for the presence of a ∼230-bp fragment of the rrfA-rrlB intergenic spacer of Borrelia spp. A total of 20.5% of the ticks were found to be positive. The infecting genospecies were identified by analyzing the amplified products by the restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) method with restriction enzyme MseI and by single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis. The two methods were compared, and PCR-SSCP analysis appeared to be a valuable tool for rapid identification of spirochetes at the intraspecific level, particularly when large samples are examined. Furthermore, by using PCR-SSCP analysis we identified a previously unknown Borrelia genotype, genotype I-77, which would have gone unnoticed if RFLP analysis alone had been used.
PMCID: PMC152394  PMID: 12514035
14.  Genetic Diversity of Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato in Ticks from Mainland Portugal 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2000;38(6):2128-2133.
To date Borrelia lusitaniae is the only genospecies of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato isolated from Ixodes ricinus ticks collected in Portugal and Tunisia. This suggests that the genospecies diversity of B. burgdorferi sensu lato decreases toward the southwestern margin of its Old World subtropical range. In order to further explore the genetic diversity of B. burgdorferi sensu lato from this region, 55 I. ricinus and 27 Hyalomma marginatum questing adults, collected during the spring of 1998 from a sylvatic habitat south of Lisbon, Portugal, were analyzed. Infection prevalences of 75% in I. ricinus ticks and 7% in H. marginatum ticks were detected by a nested PCR that targets the rrf (5S)-rrl (23S) spacer of B. burgdorferi sensu lato. Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of the I. ricinus-derived amplicons showed that the sequences in the majority of samples were similar to those of B. lusitaniae type strains (76% for strain PotiB1, 5% for strain PotiB3). Two novel RFLP patterns were obtained from 12% of the samples. The remaining 7% of samples gave mixed RFLP patterns. Phylogenetic analysis of rrf-rrl spacer sequences revealed a diverse population of B. lusitaniae in questing adult I. ricinus ticks (the sequences did not cluster with those of any other genospecies). This population consisted of 10 distinct sequence types, suggesting that multiple strains of B. lusitaniae were present in the local I. ricinus population. We hypothesize that B. lusitaniae has a narrow ecological niche that involves host species restricted to the Mediterranean Basin.
PMCID: PMC86744  PMID: 10834965
15.  rRNA gene organization in the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1992;174(11):3757-3765.
Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. The causative agent is the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. The copy number and organization of the genes encoding the rRNAs of this organism were determined. There is a single gene for 16S rRNA and two copies each of the 23S rRNA and 5S rRNA genes. All of the genes are located within a chromosomal fragment of approximately 9.5 to 10.0 kb. The 23S and 5S rRNA genes are tandemly duplicated in the order 23S-5S-23S-5S and are apparently not linked to the 16S rRNA gene, which is situated over 2 kb upstream from the 23S-5S duplication. The individual copies of the 23S-5S duplication are separated by a 182-bp spacer. Within each 23S-5S unit, an identical 22-bp spacer separates the 23S and 5S rRNA sequences from each other. The genome organization of the 23S-5S gene cluster in a number of different B. burgdorferi isolates obtained at a number of different geographical locations, as well as in several other species of Borrelia, was investigated. All isolates of B. burgdorferi tested displayed the tandem duplication, whereas the closely related species B. hermsii, B. anserina, and B. turicatae all contained a single copy of each of the genes. In addition, different geographical isolates of B. burgdorferi can be differentiated on the basis of a restriction fragment length polymorphism associated with the 23S-5S gene cluster. This polymorphism can be a useful tool for the determination of genetic relatedness between different isolates of B. burgdorferi.
PMCID: PMC206066  PMID: 1350586
16.  Isolation and Characterization of Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato Strains in an Area of Italy Where Lyme Borreliosis Is Endemic 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2001;39(6):2254-2260.
Between 1993 and 1998, we isolated Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato from 55 of the 119 patients with clinically diagnosed Lyme borreliosis who were admitted to “San Martino” Hospital in Belluno, Veneto, an Adriatic region in northeastern Italy where Lyme borreliosis is endemic. Upon hospitalization, all patients presented erythema migrans. Isolates were typed using ribosomal DNA PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of the rrfA-rrlB intergenic spacer. Of the 41 isolates typed, 37 belonged to Borrelia afzelii, 2 to Borrelia garinii, and 2 to B. burgdorferi sensu stricto. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, performed on 21 strains (13 new isolates and 8 controls), revealed different RFLP patterns within the B. garinii and B. afzelii strains; among the five B. garinii strains and the 12 B. afzelii strains, three or two different RFLP patterns were identified, according to the restriction enzyme used. The protein patterns of the new isolates confirmed their genotypic classification and revealed the level of expression of some immunodominant proteins like OspA and other characteristic Osps. These findings constitute the first report of such a high recovery rate of B. burgdorferi from patients in a very restricted area in Italy; they also indicate the predominance of the genospecies B. afzelii in the study area and the heterogeneity of the circulating strains.
PMCID: PMC88120  PMID: 11376066
17.  Molecular Typing of Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato: Taxonomic, Epidemiological, and Clinical Implications 
Clinical Microbiology Reviews  1999;12(4):633-653.
Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, the spirochete that causes human Lyme borreliosis (LB), is a genetically and phenotypically divergent species. In the past several years, various molecular approaches have been developed and used to determine the phenotypic and genetic heterogeneity within the LB-related spirochetes and their potential association with distinct clinical syndromes. These methods include serotyping, multilocus enzyme electrophoresis, DNA-DNA reassociation analysis, rRNA gene restriction analysis (ribotyping), pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, plasmid fingerprinting, randomly amplified polymorphic DNA fingerprinting analysis, species-specific PCR and PCR-based restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis, and sequence analysis of 16S rRNA and other conserved genes. On the basis of DNA-DNA reassociation analysis, 10 different Borrelia species have been described within the B. burgdorferi sensu lato complex: B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia garinii, Borrelia afzelii, Borrelia japonica, Borrelia andersonii, Borrelia valaisiana, Borrelia lusitaniae, Borrelia tanukii, Borrelia turdi, and Borrelia bissettii sp. nov. To date, only B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, B. garinii, and B. afzelii are well known to be responsible for causing human disease. Different Borrelia species have been associated with distinct clinical manifestations of LB. In addition, Borrelia species are differentially distributed worldwide and may be maintained through different transmission cycles in nature. In this paper, the molecular methods used for typing of B. burgdorferi sensu lato are reviewed. The current taxonomic status of B. burgdorferi sensu lato and its epidemiological and clinical implications, especiallly correlation between the variable clinical presentations and the infecting Borrelia species, are discussed in detail.
PMCID: PMC88929  PMID: 10515907
18.  Characterization of spirochetes isolated from ticks (Ixodes tanuki, Ixodes turdus, and Ixodes columnae) and comparison of the sequences with those of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato strains. 
Ixodes persulcatus serves as a tick vector for Borrelia garinii and Borrelia afzelii in Japan; however, unidentified spirochetes have been isolated from other species of ticks. In this study, 13 isolates from ticks (6 from Ixodes tanuki, 6 from Ixodes turdus, and 1 from Ixodes columnae) and 3 isolates from voles (Clethrionomys rufocanus) were characterized by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, rRNA gene restriction fragment length polymorphism, partial sequencing of the outer surface protein C (OspC) gene, whole DNA-DNA hybridization, and 16S rRNA gene sequence comparison. All of the results revealed that these Borrelia strains clearly represent at least two new species. A third is also likely, although additional strains have to be isolated and characterized before a separate species is designated. We designated all isolates of I. tanuki and C. rufocanus as group Hk501 and all isolates of I. turdus as group Ya501. Phylogenetic analysis based on 16S rRNA gene sequences distinguished these Borrelia strains from those belonging to hitherto known Borrelia species. Furthermore, the genomic groups, each with its own tick vectors with enzootic cycles, were quite different from each other and also from those of Lyme disease Borrelia species known to occur in Japan. The results of 16S rRNA gene sequence comparison suggest that the strain Am501 from I. columnae is related to group Hk501, although its level of DNA relatedness is less than 70%.
PMCID: PMC168014  PMID: 8779571
19.  Distribution of Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato in China▿† 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2011;49(2):647-650.
We genotyped 102 Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato strains isolated from ticks, animals, and patients in 11 provinces in China by PCR–restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) amplification of 5S (rrf)-23S (rrl) rRNA gene spacer amplicons and multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA). The results showed that Borrelia garinii was the main genotype in China (65/102) and that it was distributed mainly in northern China. Borrelia afzelii was the second most frequently found species (22/102), and it was distributed in both northern and southern China. All Borrelia valaisiana strains were isolated from Guizhou Province. Additionally, one B. burgdorferi strain was isolated from Hunan Province. Our results show the diversity and wide distribution of B. burgdorferi sensu lato in China.
PMCID: PMC3043522  PMID: 21106783
20.  First record of Borrelia burgdorferi B31 strain in Dermacentor nitens ticks in the northern region of Parana (Brazil) 
Brazilian Journal of Microbiology  2014;44(3):883-887.
The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of DNA of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) in ticks that feed on horses used for animal traction in rural Jataizinho, Parana, Brazil. Between February and June 2008, a total of 224 ticks was collected of which 75% were identified as Dermacentor nitens and 25% as Amblyomma cajenense. To amplify B. burgdorferi s.l. DNA, the intergenic space region (ISR) between the 5S (rrf) 23S (rrl) rRNA genes was used as targets for nested-PCR. Two ticks of the D. nitens species were positive for B. burgdorferi s.l. Both species showed a fragment of 184 bp, but the sequencing revealed 99.9% homology with the B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (s.s.) strain B31. These results showed, for the first time, the presence of spirochete DNA infecting ticks that parasitize horses used for animal traction, in the rural municipality mentioned. In conclusion, this study opens up promising prospects for determining the infection rate of B. burgdorferi s.s. genospecies or other species in the equine population, as well as the impact of the infection rate on Lyme disease in the state of Parana.
PMCID: PMC3910206  PMID: 24516456
ticks; Dermacentor nitens; Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato; equine; rural area
21.  Molecular typing of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato by PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1995;33(3):589-595.
The etiologic agent of Lyme borreliosis, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, has been isolated from many biologic sources in North America and Eurasia, and isolates have been divided into three distinct genospecies (B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia garinii, and Borrelia afzelii). In order to explore the possible association of genospecies with disease manifestation, 60 isolates of B. burgdorferi sensu lato were subjected to 5S rDNA-linked restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis. The results confirmed earlier studies which indicated that virtually all North American isolates are B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, whereas Eurasian strains fall into all three genospecies. Thirty-five isolates were further characterized by PCR amplification of a region of the 16S-23S rDNA spacer and HinfI digestion of the products. This method resulted in the subdivision of B. burgdorferi sensu stricto into two distinct PCR-RFLP types. In contrast, B. garinii isolates all displayed an identical pattern. Additionally, a number of previously unclassified North American isolates (25015, DN127, 19857, 24330) showed distinctively different PCR-RFLP patterns. The application of this method for the typing of uncultured B. burgdorferi directly in biologic samples was demonstrated by analysis of several field-collected Ixodes scapularis tick specimens. The described PCR-RFLP technique should allow for the direct and rapid molecular typing of B. burgdorferi-containing samples and facilitate studies of the relationship between spirochete genotype and clinical disease.
PMCID: PMC227995  PMID: 7751362
22.  Linear chromosomes of Lyme disease agent spirochetes: genetic diversity and conservation of gene order. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1995;177(10):2769-2780.
We have constructed physical and genetic maps of the chromosomes of 21 Lyme disease agent spirochetes from geographically diverse locations. All have linear chromosomes whose lengths range from 935 to 955 kbp, and all contain multiple linear plasmids in the 16- to 175-kbp size range. The locations of 11 gene clusters on the chromosomes of these different isolates are indistinguishable at the resolution achieved in this study, indicating that the members of this related group of species have highly conserved chromosomal gene orders. However, chromosomal restriction endonuclease cleavage site maps are unique for nearly all isolates. The 22 chromosomal maps currently available define eight classes of Lyme disease agents. Four of these correspond to the previously proposed species Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia garinii, Borrelia afzelii, and Borrelia japonica. In addition, the North American isolates 21038, DN127 c19-2, 25015, and CA55 typify four additional chromosomal types that are as phylogenetically distinct as the species listed above. These findings support the idea that comparison of restriction maps is currently the most robust and definitive method for determining overall chromosomal relationships among closely related bacteria. In the course of this work, we located on the chromosome the previously unmapped outer surface protein-encoding LA7 gene and genes homologous to the Escherichia coli priA, plsC, parE, and parC genes, and we have substantially refined the locations of the recA, fla, p22A, and flgE genes.
PMCID: PMC176948  PMID: 7751287
23.  Evaluation of genetic divergence among Borrelia burgdorferi isolates by use of OspA, fla, HSP60, and HSP70 gene probes. 
Infection and Immunity  1992;60(11):4856-4866.
In order to assess the genetic variation of immunologically relevant structures among isolates of the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, three chromosomal genes encoding flagellin (fla) and the heat shock proteins HSP60 and HSP70, as well as the plasmid gene encoding outer surface protein A (OspA), from 55 different European and North American strains obtained from ticks and mammal hosts have been investigated by restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs). RFLPs of fla and the HSP60 and HSP70 genes revealed two distinct banding patterns (A and B) for each of the three genes and allowed the definition of four genomic groups [AAA, BBB, BBA, and B(A/B)A] for the three chromosomal genes. On the other hand, RFLPs of the OspA gene revealed six distinct banding patterns (types I to VI) making up six independent genomic groups for the plasmid-encoded gene. Furthermore, we have sequenced the chromosomal HSP60 gene from B. burgdorferi ZS7 and the plasmid-encoded OspA gene from two strains, ZQ1 and 19857. Alignment of the deduced HSP60 amino acid sequence from B. burgdorferi ZS7 (genomic group AAA) to a previously published HSP60 sequence derived from strain ACA-1, which according to the proposed classification is in a different genomic group (BBA), revealed a sequence identity of > 99%. Similar alignments of the OspA sequence of strain ZQ1 to those of other isolates that were published previously revealed sequence identities of between 70 and 94% among strains of distinct OspA genomic groups. These data indicate the existence of a restricted number of species-specific subgroups and clearly show that genotypic variation is much more pronounced for the OspA gene than for fla and the HSP60 and HSP70 genes. A phylogenetic tree constructed on the basis of distance matrix analyses of 12 OspA sequences supports the proposed classification of genomic groups of B. burgdorferi.
PMCID: PMC258241  PMID: 1356932
24.  Lyme Disease Borrelia spp. in Ticks and Rodents from Northwestern China 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2001;67(11):5161-5165.
In May 1999, field surveys of Lyme disease spirochetes were conducted around the Tianshan Mountains in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwestern People's Republic of China. Ixodes persulcatus ticks were obtained in a Tianchi Lake valley with primary forest, while the tick fauna was poor in the semidesert or at higher altitudes in this region. Species identities were confirmed by molecular analysis in which an internal transcribed spacer sequence was used. Of 55 adult ticks, 22 (40%) were positive for spirochetes as determined by Barbour-Stoenner-Kelly culture passages. In addition, some rodents, including Apodemus uralensis (5 of 14 animals) and Cricetulus longicaudatus (the only animal examined), and some immature stages of I. persulcatus (4 of 11 ticks) that had fed on A. uralensis were positive for spirochetes. Based on 5S-23S rRNA intergenic spacer restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis and reactivity with monoclonal antibodies, 35 cultures (including double isolation cultures) were identified as Borrelia garinii (20 isolates, including 9 Eurasian pattern B isolates and 11 Asian pattern C isolates), Borrelia afzelii (10 pattern D isolates), and mixed cultures (5 cultures, including isolates that produced B. garinii patterns B and C plus B. afzelii pattern D). These findings revealed that Lyme disease pathogens are distributed in the mountainous areas in northwestern China even though it is an arid region, and they also confirmed the specific relationship between I. persulcatus and genetic patterns of Borrelia spp. on the Asian continent.
PMCID: PMC93285  PMID: 11679340
25.  Salmonella typhimurium LT2 possesses three distinct 23S rRNA intervening sequences. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1996;178(8):2272-2278.
The rrl genes for 23S rRNA of Salmonella typhimurium LT2 are known to carry intervening sequences (IVSs) at two sites, helix-25 and helix-45, which are excised by RNase III during rRNA maturation, resulting in rRNA which is fragmented but nevertheless functional. We isolated DNA fragments containing the seven rrl genes from BlnI, I-CeuI, and SpeI genomic digests following pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and used these DNA fragments as templates for PCRs utilizing primers upstream and downstream of helix-25 and helix-45. Variance in amplicon length and cycle sequencing indicated that rrlG and rrlH have IVSs in helix-25 of approximately 110 bp which are only 56% identical. rrnA, rrnB, rrnC, rrnD, rrnE, and rrnH have IVSs of approximately 90 bp in helix-45, and all have the same nucleotide sequence. Twenty-one independent wild-type strains of S. typhimurium from Salmonella Reference Collection A were analyzed for IVSs by using PCRs with genomic DNAs and by denaturing agarose electrophoresis of RNAs. Many strains resemble LT2, but some have no IVSs in helix-25 and others have IVSs in helix-45 in all seven rrl genes. However, the IVSs in individual wild-type lines are relatively stable, for several LT2 isolates separated over many years by many single-colony isolations are indistinguishable from one another, with the exception of line LB5010, which differs by one helix-25 IVS. We postulate that IVSs have entered strain LT2 by three independent lateral-transfer events and that the IVS in helix-45 was dispersed to and maintained in the same sequence in six of the seven rrl genes by the mechanism of gene conversion.
PMCID: PMC177935  PMID: 8636028

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