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1.  Diagnosis of Lyme Borreliosis 
Clinical Microbiology Reviews  2005;18(3):484-509.
A large amount of knowledge has been acquired since the original descriptions of Lyme borreliosis (LB) and of its causative agent, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto. The complexity of the organism and the variations in the clinical manifestations of LB caused by the different B. burgdorferi sensu lato species were not then anticipated. Considerable improvement has been achieved in detection of B. burgdorferi sensu lato by culture, particularly of blood specimens during early stages of disease. Culturing plasma and increasing the volume of material cultured have accomplished this. Further improvements might be obtained if molecular methods are used for detection of growth in culture and if culture methods are automated. Unfortunately, culture is insensitive in extracutaneous manifestations of LB. PCR and culture have high sensitivity on skin samples of patients with EM whose diagnosis is based mostly on clinical recognition of the lesion. PCR on material obtained from extracutaneous sites is in general of low sensitivity, with the exception of synovial fluid. PCR on synovial fluid has shown a sensitivity of up to >90% (when using four different primer sets) in patients with untreated or partially treated Lyme arthritis, making it a helpful confirmatory test in these patients. Currently, the best use of PCR is for confirmation of the clinical diagnosis of suspected Lyme arthritis in patients who are IgG immunoblot positive. PCR should not be used as the sole laboratory modality to support a clinical diagnosis of extracutaneous LB. PCR positivity in seronegative patients suspected of having late manifestations of LB most likely represents a false-positive result. Because of difficulties in direct methods of detection, laboratory tests currently in use are mainly those detecting antibodies to B. burgdorferi sensu lato. Tests used to detect antibodies to B. burgdorferi sensu lato have evolved from the initial formats as more knowledge on the immunodominant antigens has been collected. The recommendation for two-tier testing was an attempt to standardize testing and improve specificity in the United States. First-tier assays using whole-cell sonicates of B. burgdorferi sensu lato need to be standardized in terms of antigen composition and detection threshold of specific immunoglobulin classes. The search for improved serologic tests has stimulated the development of recombinant protein antigens and the synthesis of specific peptides from immunodominant antigens. The use of these materials alone or in combination as the source of antigen in a single-tier immunoassay may someday replace the currently recommended two-tier testing strategy. Evaluation of these assays is currently being done, and there is evidence that certain of these antigens may be broadly cross-reactive with the B. burgdorferi sensu lato species causing LB in Europe.
PMCID: PMC1195970  PMID: 16020686
2.  Identification of Tick-Borne Pathogens in Ticks Feeding on Humans in Turkey 
The importance of tick-borne diseases is increasing all over the world, including Turkey. The tick-borne disease outbreaks reported in recent years and the abundance of tick species and the existence of suitable habitats increase the importance of studies related to the epidemiology of ticks and tick-borne pathogens in Turkey. The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of and to determine the infection rates of some tick-borne pathogens, including Babesia spp., Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and spotted fever group rickettsiae in the ticks removed from humans in different parts of Ankara.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A total of 169 ticks belonging to the genus Haemaphysalis, Hyalomma, Ixodes and Rhipicephalus were collected by removing from humans in different parts of Ankara. Ticks were molecularly screened for Babesia spp., Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and spotted fever group rickettsiae by PCR and sequencing analysis. We detected 4 Babesia spp.; B. crassa, B. major, B. occultans and B. rossi, one Borrelia spp.; B. burgdorferi sensu stricto and 3 spotted fever group rickettsiae; R. aeschlimannii, R. slovaca and R. hoogstraalii in the tick specimens analyzed. This is the report showing the presence of B. rossi in a region that is out of Africa and in the host species Ha. parva. In addition, B. crassa, for which limited information is available on its distribution and vector species, and B. occultans, for which no conclusive information is available on its presence in Turkey, were identified in Ha. parva and H. marginatum, respectively. Two human pathogenic rickettsia species (R. aeschlimannii and R. slovaca) were detected with a high prevalence in ticks. Additionally, B. burgdorferi sensu stricto was detected in unusual tick species (H. marginatum, H. excavatum, Hyalomma spp. (nymph) and Ha. parva).
This study investigates both the distribution of several tick-borne pathogens affecting humans and animals, and the presence of new tick-borne pathogens in Turkey. More epidemiological studies are warranted for B. rossi, which is very pathogenic for dogs, because the presented results suggest that B. rossi might have a wide distribution in Turkey. Furthermore, we recommend that tick-borne pathogens, especially R. aeschlimannii, R. slovaca, and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, should be taken into consideration in patients who had a tick bite in Turkey.
Author Summary
Ticks are widespread in over all Turkey. Primary tick-borne diseases (TBDs), such as theileriosis, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis, affecting animals have been known for a long time in Turkey. However, TBDs have become a major concern in humans in recent years due to the recent Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever outbreak in Turkey. We know that some TBDs like CCHF, Lyme borreliosis, spotted fever group rickettsiosis, babesiosis and anaplasmosis exist in this geography. However, the other diseases except for CCHF are neglected in patients. In this study, we aimed to investigate Babesia spp., Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and spotted fever group rickettsiae in ticks removed from humans in different parts of Ankara by using PCR and sequencing. The result of this study showed that 4 Babesia species, one B. burgdorferi sensu lato, and 3 spotted fever group rickettsia are detected in ticks. The most striking result of this study is that B. rossi, which is very pathogenic for dogs, was reported for the first time from a region that is out of Africa and in Ha. parva. Therefore, B. rossi should be considered in dogs in Turkey. Furthermore, we propose that R. aeschlimannii, R. slovaca, and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto should be taken into consideration in patients who had a tick bite in Ankara.
PMCID: PMC4125308  PMID: 25101999
3.  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
4.  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
5.  Heterogeneity of BmpA (P39) among European isolates of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and influence of interspecies variability on serodiagnosis. 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1997;35(11):2752-2758.
The molecular and antigenic variabilities of BmpA (P39) among European isolates of Borrelia burgdorferi were analyzed. The bmpA sequences of 12 isolates representing all three species of B. burgdorferi sensu lato pathogenic for humans were amplified by PCR, cloned, and sequenced. The BmpA protein of Borrelia garinii is heterogeneous, with an amino acid sequence identity ranging from 91 to 97%, whereas the BmpA proteins of Borrelia afzelii and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto strains appear to be highly conserved (>98.5% intraspecies identity). The interspecies identities ranged from 86 to 92%. Cluster analysis of BmpA reflected the subdivision of B. burgdorferi sensu lato isolates into the three species as well as a considerable heterogeneity among B. garinii strains. The BmpA protein of each species of B. burgdorferi sensu lato was recombinantly expressed in Escherichia coli, purified, and used to generate monoclonal antibodies. Seven BmpA-specific antibodies were identified; six of them recognized conserved epitopes of all three species, whereas one was specific for BmpA of B. afzelii and B. garinii. A monoclonal antibody (H1141) recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use in the standardization of immunoblots showed strong reactivity with BmpA of B. burgdorferi sensu stricto but no or only weak reactivity with BmpA of B. garinii and B. afzelii, respectively. Sera from 86 European patients with Lyme borreliosis in different stages and 73 controls were tested in immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgM immunoblots with the recombinant BmpA proteins of the three species, revealing specificities of 98.6 to 100%. IgM antibodies against recombinant BmpA were only rarely detected (1.1 to 8.1%). With the BmpA proteins of B. afzelii and B. garinii, sensitivities for the IgG test (sera from stages I to III) were 36.0 and 34.9%, respectively, in contrast to 13.9% with BmpA of B. burgdorferi sensu stricto. Therefore, we recommend that recombinant BmpA of B. afzelii or B. garinii should be used solely, or in addition to B. burgdorferi sensu stricto BmpA, in serodiagnostic tests for Lyme borreliosis in Europe.
PMCID: PMC230055  PMID: 9350727
6.  Phenotypic and Genetic Characterization of a Novel Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato Isolate from a Patient with Lyme Borreliosis 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1999;37(9):3025-3028.
Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato A14S was cultured from a skin biopsy specimen of a patient with erythema migrans in The Netherlands. This isolate had a unique DNA fingerprint pattern compared to 135 other B. burgdorferi sensu lato isolates. In this study, the isolate A14S was further characterized by protein analysis with sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and reactivity with various monoclonal antibodies. In addition, the 16S rRNA, ospA, and ospC genes, as well as the 5S-23S rRNA intergenic spacer DNA, were amplified by PCR, cloned, and sequenced. SDS-PAGE protein profiles and phylogenetic analysis based on all of the analyzed genes confirmed that B. burgdorferi sensu lato A14S was phenotypically and genetically different from the three human pathogenic species B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia garinii, and Borrelia afzelii, as well as from other B. burgdorferi sensu lato species. Our findings indicate that Borrelia genomic groups or isolates other than the three well-known human pathogenic species may also cause human Lyme borreliosis.
PMCID: PMC85444  PMID: 10449497
7.  Molecular Typing of Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato by Randomly Amplified Polymorphic DNA Fingerprinting Analysis 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1998;36(3):768-776.
To study whether pathogenic clusters of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato strains occur, we typed 136 isolates, cultured from specimens from patients (n = 49) with various clinical entities and from ticks (n = 83) or dogs (n = 4) from different geographic regions, by randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) fingerprinting with four arbitrary primers. The RAPD patterns were reproducible up to the 95% similarity level as shown in duplicate experiments. In these experiments the purified DNAs prepared on different days, from different colonies, and after various passages were used as templates. With an intergroup difference of 55%, the 136 strains could be divided into seven genetic clusters. Six clusters comprised and corresponded to the established species B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (n = 23), Borrelia garinii (n = 39), Borrelia afzelii (n = 59), Borrelia japonica (n = 1), Borrelia valaisiana (n = 12), and genomic group DN127 (n = 1). One strain from a patient with erythema migrans (EM) did not belong to any of the species or genomic groups known up to now. The RAPD types of B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, B. garinii, and B. afzelii isolates, which may give rise to human Lyme borreliosis (LB), were associated with their geographic origins. A high degree of genetic diversity was observed among the 39 B. garinii strains, and six subgroups could be recognized. One of these comprised eight isolates from patients with disseminated LB only and no tick isolates. B. afzelii strains from patients with EM or acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans were not clustered in particular branches. Our study showed that RAPD analysis is a powerful tool for discriminating different Borrelia species as well as Borrelia isolates within species.
PMCID: PMC104623  PMID: 9508310
8.  An optimized PCR leads to rapid and highly sensitive detection of Borrelia burgdorferi in patients with Lyme borreliosis. 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1997;35(3):685-690.
The present study aimed at developing an optimized PCR protocol fro the sensitive and specific detection of all three Borrelia burgdorferi genospecies pathogenic to humans in Lyme borreliosis patients. A rapid DNA extraction method using alkaline lysis was introduced and was found to be superior to other DNA extraction methods. Nested PCR was performed with primer sets targeting the plasmid-located ospA gene and a chromosomal gene segment encoding a 66-kDa protein (p66). In spiked synovial fluid (SF) fewer than three borreliae/sample were detected. The specificities of the amplicons were confirmed by Southern blot analysis with PCR-derived probes. Urine, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and SF specimens from 57 patients with Lyme borreliosis and from 58 controls were examined. In clinical samples the diagnostic sensitivity of PCR was 85% with SF samples, 79% with urine samples, and 91% with paired SF-urine samples from patients with Lyme arthritis and was 79% with CSF samples, 45% with urine samples, and 87% with paired CSF-urine specimens from neuroborreliosis patients. One patient each with neuroborreliosis and with Lyme arthritis had PCR-positive urine samples only. In 17% of all cases both primer sets yielded positive results, while the other patients were positive with only one primer set. Among these, more positive results were obtained with the p66 gene primer than with the ospA primer. The specificity exceeded 99%. We conclude that DNA from B. burgdorferi sensu lato species can sensitively and specifically be detected with the optimized PCR method described. At least two different primer sets should be used, and whenever possible, urine and CSF or SF should be analyzed in parallel to achieve maximum sensitivity of the test. This protocol, therefore, considerably enhances the diagnostic power of PCR in patients with B. burgdorferi infection.
PMCID: PMC229651  PMID: 9041413
9.  Differential Transmission of the Genospecies of Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato by Game Birds and Small Rodents in England 
The genetic diversity of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato was assessed in a focus of Lyme borreliosis in southern Britain dominated by game birds. Ticks, rodents, and pheasants were analyzed for spirochete infections by PCR targeting the 23S-5S rRNA genes, followed by genotyping by the reverse line blot method. In questing Ixodes ricinus ticks, three genospecies of B. burgdorferi sensu lato were detected, with the highest prevalences found for Borrelia garinii and Borrelia valaisiana. B. burgdorferi sensu stricto was rare (<1%) in all tick stages. Borrelia afzelii was not detected in any of the samples. More than 50% of engorged nymphs collected from pheasants were infected with borreliae, mainly B. garinii and/or B. valaisiana. Although 19% of the rodents harbored B. burgdorferi sensu stricto and/or B. garinii in internal organs, only B. burgdorferi sensu stricto was transmitted to xenodiagnostic tick larvae (it was transmitted to 1% of the larvae). The data indicate that different genospecies of B. burgdorferi sensu lato can be maintained in nature by distinct transmission cycles involving the same vector tick species but different vertebrate host species. Wildlife management may have an influence on the relative risk of different clinical forms of Lyme borreliosis.
PMCID: PMC106125  PMID: 9546150
10.  Comparison of Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato Strains Isolated from Specimens Obtained Simultaneously from Two Different Sites of Infection in Individual Patients 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2005;43(5):2194-2200.
The aim of the present study was to analyze and compare Borrelia strains isolated from two different specimens obtained simultaneously from individual patients with Lyme borreliosis. Fifty such patients and 50 corresponding pairs of Borrelia isolates (100 low-propagated strains) were subjected to genotypic and phenotypic analysis, including pulsed-field gel electrophoresis for species identification and plasmid profile determination and protein profile electrophoresis for the assessment of the presence and molecular masses of separated proteins. The strains were isolated from two distinct skin lesions (12 patients), skin and blood (28 patients), skin and cerebrospinal fluid (8 patients), and blood and cerebrospinal fluid (2 patients). Out of 100 isolates, 63 were typed as B. afzelii and 37 as B. garinii. From each individual specimen only a single Borrelia species was cultured. Comparison of 50 Borrelia strain pairs isolated from two different specimens of an individual patient revealed that 12/50 (24%) patients were simultaneously infected with two different Borrelia strains; in 3/50 (6%) patients strains differed at the species level, in 4 out of the remaining 47 (9%) patients a strain difference in plasmid profile was established, while 5 out of the remaining 43 (11%) patient strain pairs differed in regard to the protein profiles of the two concurrently isolated strains. The results of the present study indicate that human patients with Lyme borreliosis may simultaneously harbor different B. burgdorferi sensu lato strains.
PMCID: PMC1153759  PMID: 15872241
11.  Molecular Identification and Analysis of Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato in Lizards in the Southeastern United States 
Lyme borreliosis (LB) group spirochetes, collectively known as Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, are distributed worldwide. Wild rodents are acknowledged as the most important reservoir hosts. Ixodes scapularis is the primary vector of B. burgdorferi sensu lato in the eastern United States, and in the southeastern United States, the larvae and nymphs mostly parasitize certain species of lizards. The primary aim of the present study was to determine whether wild lizards in the southeastern United States are naturally infected with Lyme borreliae. Blood samples obtained from lizards in Florida and South Carolina were tested for the presence of LB spirochetes primarily by using B. burgdorferi sensu lato-specific PCR assays that amplify portions of the flagellin (flaB), outer surface protein A (ospA), and 66-kDa protein (p66) genes. Attempts to isolate spirochetes from a small number of PCR-positive lizards failed. However, PCR amplification and sequence analysis of partial flaB, ospA, and p66 gene fragments confirmed numerous strains of B. burgdorferi sensu lato, including Borrelia andersonii, Borrelia bissettii, and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, in blood from lizards from both states. B. burgdorferi sensu lato DNA was identified in 86 of 160 (54%) lizards representing nine species and six genera. The high infection prevalence and broad distribution of infection among different lizard species at different sites and at different times of the year suggest that LB spirochetes are established in lizards in the southeastern United States.
PMCID: PMC1087528  PMID: 15870353
12.  The Heterogeneity, Distribution, and Environmental Associations of Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato, the Agent of Lyme Borreliosis, in Scotland 
Lyme borreliosis is an emerging infectious human disease caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex of bacteria with reported cases increasing in many areas of Europe and North America. To understand the drivers of disease risk and the distribution of symptoms, which may improve mitigation and diagnostics, here we characterize the genetics, distribution, and environmental associations of B. burgdorferi s.l. genospecies across Scotland. In Scotland, reported Lyme borreliosis cases have increased almost 10-fold since 2000 but the distribution of B. burgdorferi s.l. is so far unstudied. Using a large survey of over 2200 Ixodes ricinus tick samples collected from birds, mammals, and vegetation across 25 sites we identified four genospecies: Borrelia afzelii (48%), Borrelia garinii (36%), Borrelia valaisiana (8%), and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (7%), and one mixed genospecies infection. Surprisingly, 90% of the sequence types were novel and, importantly, up to 14% of samples were mixed intra-genospecies co-infections, suggesting tick co-feeding, feeding on multiple hosts, or multiple infections in hosts. B. garinii (hosted by birds) was considerably more genetically diverse than B. afzelii (hosted by small mammals), as predicted since there are more species of birds than small mammals and birds can import strains from mainland Europe. Higher proportions of samples contained B. garinii and B. valaisiana in the west, while B. afzelii and B. garinii were significantly more associated with mixed/deciduous than with coniferous woodlands. This may relate to the abundance of transmission hosts in different regions and habitats. These data on the genetic heterogeneity within and between Borrelia genospecies are a first step to understand pathogen spread and could help explain the distribution of patient symptoms, which may aid local diagnosis. Understanding the environmental associations of the pathogens is critical for rational policy making for disease risk mitigation and land management.
PMCID: PMC4147938  PMID: 25221774
Ixodes ricinus; ticks; Lyme disease; MLST; PCR; genetics; allele; sequence type
13.  Use of CFSE staining of borreliae in studies on the interaction between borreliae and human neutrophils 
BMC Microbiology  2006;6:92.
Species of the tick-transmitted spirochete group Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (B. burgdorferi) cause Lyme borreliosis. Acute borrelial infection of the skin has unusual characteristics with only a mild local inflammatory response suggesting that the interaction between borreliae and the cells of the first-line defence might differ from that of other bacteria. It has been reported that human neutrophils phagocytose motile borreliae through an unconventional mechanism (tube phagocytosis) which is not observed with non-motile borreliae. Therefore, it would be of great interest to visualise the bacteria by a method not affecting motility and viability of borreliae to be able to study their interaction with the cells of the innate immunity. Carboxyfluorescein diacetate, succinimidyl ester (CFSE) labelling has been previously used for studying the adhesion of labelled bacteria to host cells and the uptake of labelled substrates by various cells using flow cytometry.
In this study, CFSE was shown to efficiently stain different genospecies of B. burgdorferi without affecting bacterial viability or motility. Use of CFSE staining allowed subsequent quantification of borreliae associated with human neutrophils with flow cytometry and confocal microscopy. As a result, no difference in association between different borrelial genospecies (Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia afzelii, Borrelia garinii), or between borreliae and the pyogenic bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes, with neutrophils could be detected. Borrelial virulence, on the other hand, affected association with neutrophils, with significantly higher association of a non-virulent mutant B. burgdorferi sensu stricto strain compared to the parental virulent wild type strain.
These results suggest that the flow cytometric assay using CFSE labelled borreliae is a valuable tool in the analysis of the interaction between borreliae and human neutrophils. The results also indicate a clear difference in the association with neutrophils between virulent and non-virulent borrelial strains.
PMCID: PMC1621068  PMID: 17049082
14.  Lyme Borreliosis in Human Patients in Florida and Georgia, USA 
The aim of this study was to determine the cause of illness in several human patients residing in Florida and Georgia, USA, with suspected Lyme disease based upon EM-like skin lesions and/or symptoms consistent with early localized or late disseminated Lyme borreliosis. Using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays developed specifically for Lyme group Borrelia spp., followed by DNA sequencing for confirmation, we identified Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato DNA in samples of blood and skin and also in lone star ticks (Amblyomma americanum) removed from several patients who either live in or were exposed to ticks in Florida or Georgia. This is the first report to present combined PCR and DNA sequence evidence of infection with Lyme Borrelia spp. in human patients in the southern U.S., and to demonstrate that several B. burgdorferi sensu lato species may be associated with Lyme disease-like signs and symptoms in southern states. Based on the findings of this study, we suggest that human Lyme borreliosis occurs in Florida and Georgia, and that some cases of Lyme-like illness referred to as southern tick associated rash illness (STARI) in the southern U.S. may be attributable to previously undetected B. burgdorferi sensu lato infections.
PMCID: PMC3675506  PMID: 23781138
Lyme borreliosis; Florida; Georgia
15.  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
16.  Distribution of Clinically Relevant Borrelia Genospecies in Ticks Assessed by a Novel, Single-Run, Real-Time PCR 
A LightCycler-based PCR protocol was developed which targets the ospA gene for the identification and quantification of the different Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato species in culture and in ticks, based on the use of a fluorescently labeled probe (HybProbe) and an internally labeled primer. The detection limit of the PCR was 1 to 10 spirochetes. A melting temperature determined from the melting curve of the amplified product immediately after thermal cycling allowed the differentiation of the three different B. burgdorferi sensu lato genospecies (B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia garinii, and Borrelia afzelii) that are clinically relevant in Europe in a single PCR run. This method represents a simplified approach to study the association of different Borrelia species in ticks, the risk of Lyme borreliosis, and the putatively species-specific clinical sequelae. To determine the reliability of the real-time PCR protocol, we studied the prevalence of B. burgdorferi sensu lato infection in Ixodes ricinus ticks. A total of 1,055 ticks were collected by flagging vegetation in five different sites in the region of Konstanz (south Germany) and were examined for the distribution of B. burgdorferi species by real-time PCR. The mean infection rate was 35%. Of 548 adult ticks, 40% were positive, and of 507 nymphs, 30% were positive. The predominant genospecies (with 18% mixed infections) in the examined areas was B. afzelii (53%), followed by B. garinii (18%) and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (11%); 0.8% of the infecting Borrelia could not be identified.
PMCID: PMC120091  PMID: 11773090
17.  Clinical Features of 705 Borrelia burgdorferi Seropositive Patients in an Endemic Area of Northern Italy 
The Scientific World Journal  2014;2014:414505.
Background. Lyme Borreliosis is a multisystemic infection caused by spirochetes of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato complex. The features of Lyme Borreliosis may differ in the various geographical areas, primarily between the manifestations found in America and those found in Europe and Asia. Objective. to describe the clinical features of Lyme Borreliosis in an endemic geographic area such as Friuli-Venezia Giulia in the Northeastern part of Italy. Methods. The medical records of patients resulted seropositive for Borrelia burgdorferi have been retrospectively recorded and analyzed. Results. Seven hundred and five patients met the inclusion criteria, 363 males and 342 females. Erythema migrans was the most common manifestation, detected in 437 patients. Other classical cutaneous manifestations included 58 cases of multiple erythema migrans, 7 lymphadenosis benigna cutis, and 18 acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans. The musculoskeletal system was involved in 511 patients. Four hundred and sixty patients presented a neurological involvement. Flu-like symptoms preceded or accompanied or were the only clinical feature in 119 patients. Comments. The manifestations of Lyme borreliosis recorded in this study are similar to the ones of other endemic areas in Europe, even if there are some peculiar features which are different from those reported in Northern Europe and in the USA.
PMCID: PMC3914583  PMID: 24550705
18.  Detection of four species of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in Ixodes ricinus ticks collected from roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) in The Netherlands. 
Epidemiology and Infection  1996;117(3):563-566.
Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) were investigated for their value as sentinel animals for Lyme borreliosis in the Netherlands. Serum was obtained from 114 roe deer, and 513 Ixodes ricinus, predominantly females (72%), were obtained from 47 animals (41%). The polymerase chain reaction was used to detect DNA of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in a total of 190 ticks, comprising 106 engorged ticks and 84 non-engorged ticks. Borrelia DNA was detected in 24 engorged ticks (23%) and 26 non-engorged ticks (31%). This difference was not significant (P = 0.25). Four species of B. burgdorferi sensu lato were identified in the ticks. B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia garinii, Borrelia afzelii and group VS116. B. afzelii was most commonly found and present in 13 mixed infections, and in 28 single infections. Fifteen sera (13%) contained antibodies to Borrelia spp. Ticks are more appropriate sentinel animals for Lyme borreliosis than roe deer, an important host for I. ricinus. Although the viability of borrelia spirochaetes in engorged ticks collected from roe deer was not assessed, a bloodmeal taken from roe deer did not eliminate borrelia spirochaetes from the tick. The relevance of this finding for transovarial transmission of borrelia spirochaetes in ticks is discussed.
PMCID: PMC2271641  PMID: 8972683
19.  Genomic fingerprinting of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1993;31(11):2873-2877.
A total of 46 Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato isolates that were isolated from patients with Lyme borreliosis and infected animals or were extracted from ticks of the genus Ixodes were analyzed. Large restriction fragment patterns obtained after cleavage of genomic DNAs with MluI were analyzed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). To eliminate the contribution of plasmid DNA, only fragments greater than 70 kb were used for the analysis. The results indicated that each of the 14 B. burgdorferi sensu stricto isolates were recognized by a band at 135 kbp, each of the 12 Borrelia garinii isolates by two bands (220 and 80 kbp), and each of the 20 Borrelia afzelii isolates by three bands (460, 320, and 90 kbp). Whereas differences in the PFGE patterns among B. burgdorferi sensu stricto isolates and B. garinii isolates were noted, B. afzelii isolates were all similar. Identification of isolates by PFGE correlates with their belonging to a given species within B. burgdorferi sensu lato.
PMCID: PMC266147  PMID: 8263170
20.  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
21.  Direct Molecular Typing of Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato Species in Synovial Samples from Patients with Lyme Arthritis 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2000;38(5):1895-1900.
Since Lyme arthritis was first described in the United States, it has now been reported in many countries of Europe. However, very few strains of the causative bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, have been isolated from synovial samples. For this reason, different molecular direct typing methods were developed recently to assess which species could be involved in Lyme arthritis in Europe. We developed a simple oligonucleotide typing method with PCR fragments from the flagellin gene of B. burgdorferi sensu lato, which is able to differentiate seven different Borrelia species. Among 10 consecutive PCR-positive patients with Lyme arthritis from the northeastern France, two species were identified in synovial samples: B. burgdorferi sensu stricto in 9 cases and B. garinii in 1 case. Conversely, all B. burgdorferi sensu lato species detected in 10 consecutive PCR-positive biopsies from a second set of patients with erythema migrans from the same geographical area were identified as either B. afzelii or B. garinii (P < 0.001). These results indicate that B. burgdorferi sensu stricto is the principal but not the only Borrelia species involved in Lyme arthritis in northeastern France.
PMCID: PMC86617  PMID: 10790118
22.  Introduced Siberian Chipmunks (Tamias sibiricus barberi) Harbor More-Diverse Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato Genospecies than Native Bank Voles (Myodes glareolus)▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(16):5716-5721.
Little attention has been given in scientific literature to how introduced species may act as a new host for native infectious agents and modify the epidemiology of a disease. In this study, we investigated whether an introduced species, the Siberian chipmunk (Tamias sibiricus barberi), was a potentially new reservoir host for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, the causative agent of Lyme disease. First, we ascertained whether chipmunks were infected by all of the B. burgdorferi sensu lato genospecies associated with rodents and available in their source of infection, questing nymphs. Second, we determined whether the prevalence and diversity of B. burgdorferi sensu lato in chipmunks were similar to those of a native reservoir rodent, the bank vole (Myodes glareolus). Our research took place between 2006 and 2008 in a suburban French forest, where we trapped 335 chipmunks and 671 voles and collected 743 nymphs of ticks that were questing for hosts by dragging on the vegetation. We assayed for B. burgdorferi sensu lato with ear biopsy specimens taken from the rodents and in nymphs using PCR and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP). Chipmunks were infected by the three Borrelia genospecies that were present in questing nymphs and that infect rodents (B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, B. afzelii, and B. garinii). In contrast, voles hosted only B. afzelii. Furthermore, chipmunks were more infected (35%) than voles (16%). These results may be explained by the higher exposure of chipmunks, because they harbor more ticks, or by their higher tolerance of other B. burgdorferi sensu lato genospecies than of B. afzelii. If chipmunks are competent reservoir hosts for B. burgdorferi sensu lato, they may spill back B. burgdorferi sensu lato to native communities and eventually may increase the risk of Lyme disease transmission to humans.
PMCID: PMC3165248  PMID: 21705536
23.  Simultaneous detection and genotyping of three genomic groups of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in Dutch Ixodes ricinus ticks by characterization of the amplified intergenic spacer region between 5S and 23S rRNA genes. 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1995;33(12):3091-3095.
We developed a rapid and reliable method for the identification Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato species in ticks. We used the DNA sequence polymorphism of the spacer region between 5S and 23S rRNA genes, which has been shown to be able to discriminate between eight genomic groups of B. burgdorferi sensu lato (D. Postic, M. Assous, P. A. D. Grimont, and G. Baranton, Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 44:743-752, 1994). Spacer DNA was amplified by PCR and was then hybridized to five membrane-bound oligonucleotides. The oligonucleotides were specific for B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia garinii, Borrelia afzelii, and group VS116. A probe which reacted with all genomic groups of B. burgdorferi sensu lato was also used. Ninety-six ticks collected in the field were destructed by bead beating, and the supernatant was used directly in a PCR. B. burgdorferi sensu lato DNA was detected in 6 of 57 adult ticks (11%) and 9 of 39 nymphs (23%). B. garinii was found in three nymphs and four adults, three nymphs carried B. afzelii, and one adult and one nymph carried group VS116. Double infections with B. afzelii and group VS116 were found in two nymphs and one adult. Thus, our method can simultaneously identify three genomic groups of B. burgdorferi sensu lato in ticks collected in the field. This technique provides new ways to study the association of genomic groups present in ticks and the risk of Lyme borreliosis.
PMCID: PMC228650  PMID: 8586679
24.  Nucleic Acid Amplification Based Diagnostic of Lyme (Neuro-)borreliosis – Lost in the Jungle of Methods, Targets, and Assays? 
The Open Neurology Journal  2012;6:129-139.
Laboratory based diagnosis of infectious diseases usually relies on culture of the disease causing micro-organism, followed by identification and susceptibility testing. Since Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, the etiologic agent of Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis, requires very specific culture conditions (e.g. specific liquid media, long term cul-ture) traditional bacteriology is often not done on a routine basis. Instead, confirmation of the clinical diagnosis needs ei-ther indirect techniques (like serology or measurement of cellular activity in the presence of antigens) or direct but culture independent techniques, like microscopy or nucleic acid amplification techniques (NAT), with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) being the most frequently applied NAT method in routine laboratories.
NAT uses nucleic acids of the disease causing micro-organism as template for amplification, isolated from various sources of clinical specimens. Although the underlying principle, adoption of the enzymatic process running during DNA duplication prior to prokaryotic cell division, is comparatively easy, a couple of ‘pitfalls’ is associated with the technique itself as well as with interpretation of the results.
At present, no commercial, CE-marked and sufficiently validated PCR assay is available. A number of homebrew assays have been published, which are different in terms of target (i.e. the gene targeted by the amplification primers), method (nested PCR, PCR followed by hybridization, real-time PCR) and validation criteria. Inhibitory compounds may lead to false negative results, if no appropriate internal control is included. Carry-over of amplicons, insufficient handling and workflow and/or insufficiently validated targets/primers may result in false positive results. Different targets may yield different analytical sensitivity, depending, among other factors, of the redundancy of a target gene in the genome. Per-formance characteristics (e.g. analytical sensitivity and specificity, clinical sensitivity and specificity, reproducibility, etc.) are, if available, only applicable to a specific assay, running in a specific laboratory. Finally, not only the NAT/PCR method itself, but also the process of DNA isolation from the specimen, is highly diverse and may have fundamental im-pact on the (expected) PCR result. Of concern are distribution effects of DNA, in particular, if only low numbers of bacte-ria/genomes are present in a sample, as it is the case for instance in cerebrospinal fluids.
For the ordering physician and for the patient requesting PCR analysis, these ‘pitfalls’ are usually invisible. As a conse-quence, the reported result (i.e. PCR negative or positive for B. burgdorferi) is hard to interpret, especially, if the reported PCR result is contradictory to the clinical diagnosis or other laboratory findings. Moreover, due to the high number of dif-ferent assays in use, two laboratories, testing the same specimen, might come to different PCR results.
The current paper wants to summarize the available PCR/NAT assays for the detection of B. burgdorferi DNA in clinical specimens, with special attention to neurologic disorders, and to discuss the difficulties in PCR analysis and result inter-pretation, associated thereof. In view of growing numbers of patients who are diagnosed of having Lyme disease, and ac-knowledging a substantial growth in knowledge regarding other tick- or vector-borne pathogens, which might be able to induce symptoms comparable to Lyme (neuro-)borreliosis, efforts are urgently needed to standardize and harmonize methods for B. burgdorferi nucleic acid amplification.
PMCID: PMC3514706  PMID: 23230454
Polymerase chain reaction; Borrelia burgdorferi; Lyme disease; Lyme neuroborreliosis.
25.  A two year prospective study to compare culture and polymerase chain reaction amplification for the detection and diagnosis of Lyme borreliosis. 
Molecular Pathology  1997;50(4):186-193.
AIM: To compare polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of borrelial DNA and culture isolation of spirochaetes for the diagnosis of Lyme borreliosis by direct detection of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in patients with erythema migrans and acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans lesions. METHODS: Skin biopsy specimens from erythema migrans and acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans lesions were subdivided and tested by PCR amplification assay and culture using two artificial growth media, Barbour-Stoenner-Kelly II (BSK II) and modified Kelly-Pettenkofer (MKP). Five classes of lesions were studied: typical erythema migrans, spontaneously resolved erythema migrans, atypical/partially treated erythema migrans, typical acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans, and atypical/partially treated acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans. RESULTS: For both erythema migrans and acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans lesions, the most sensitive detection method was MKP culture. PCR was less sensitive than MKP culture, but more sensitive than BSK II culture. Results for 758 typical erythema migrans specimens showed positivity rates of 36% for MKP, 25% for PCR, and 24% for BSK II. Differences were statistically significant. The overall positivity rate for all three methods combined was 54%, but few specimens (6%) were positive by all three methods. Examination of multiple erythema migrans lesions from the same patient increased the diagnostic yield. These findings, and similar results for acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans lesions, suggest that the distribution of spirochaetes in skin biopsies is not homogeneous. CONCLUSIONS: Although possessing the potential to provide a rapid diagnosis, PCR is not more sensitive than culture for the direct detection of borrelia. Spirochaetes appear to be unevenly distributed throughout biopsy specimens, suggesting that diagnosis of Lyme borreliosis by direct detection of the causative agent in skin lesions in vulnerable to sample bias.
PMCID: PMC379624  PMID: 9350301

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