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Diagnosis of Lyme Borreliosis in Europe - · PDF fileDiagnosis of Lyme Borreliosis in Europe ... National Reference Center for Borreliae, ... MICROBIOLOGICAL DIAGNOSIS OF LYME BORRELIOSIS

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  • VECTOR-BORNE AND ZOONOTIC DISEASESVolume 3, Number 4, 2003 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.


    Diagnosis of Lyme Borreliosis in Europe



    In Europe, Lyme borreliosis is caused by at least three species, B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, B. afzelii and B. garinii.Thus microbiological diagnosis in European patients must consider the heterogeneity of Lyme disease borreliaefor development of diagnostic tools such as PCR primers and diagnostic antigens. According to guidelines of theGerman Society of Hygiene and Microbiology, the serological diagnosis should follow the principle of a two-stepprocedure. A sensitive ELISA differentiating IgM and IgG is recommended as the first step. In case the ELISA isreactive, it is followed by immunoblots (IgM and IgG) as the second step. The reactive diagnostic bands shouldbe clearly identified, which is easy if recombinant antigens are used. The sensitivity and standardization of im-munoblots has been considerably enhanced by use of recombinant antigens instead of whole cell lysates. Im-proved sensitivity resulted from use of recombinant proteins that are expressed primarily in vivo (e.g., VlsE) andcombination of homologous proteins from different strains of borrelia (e.g., DbpA). It also appears promising touse recombinant proteins (DbpA, VlsE, others) or synthetic peptides (the conserved C6 peptide derived from VlsE)as ELISA antigens. At present, detection rates for serum antibodies are 2050% in stage I, 7090% in stage II, andnearly 100% in stage III Lyme disease. The main goals for the future are to improve specificity in general and sen-sitivity for diagnosis of early manifestations (stage I and II). Detection of the etiological agent by culture or PCRshould be confined to specific indications and specialised laboratories. Recommended specimens are skin biopsyspecimens, CSF and synovial fluid. The best results are obtained from skin biopsies with culture or PCR (5070%)and synovial tissue or fluid (5070% with PCR). CSF yields positive results in only 1030% of patients. Methodsthat are not recommended for diagnostic purposes are antigen tests in body fluids, PCR of urine, and lymphocytetransformation tests. Key Words: Lyme borreliosisBorrelia burgdorferiDiagnosis. Vector-Borne Zoonotic Dis.3, 215227.



    LYME BORRELIOSIS is a multisystem disease in-volving many organs such as the skin, thenervous system, the joints, and the heart (Steereet al. 1989, Pfister et al. 1994). This condition isthe most frequent tick-borne disease in thenorthern hemisphere. Due to the diversity ofclinical symptoms, Lyme disease is often con-sidered in a differential diagnosis. Examina-tions for antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferiare thus in high demand, and are among themost frequently requested serological tests

    in microbiological laboratories. Microbiologicaldiagnosis in European patients must considerthe heterogeneity of Lyme disease borreliae inEurope.



    In Europe, Lyme borreliosis is caused by atleast three species: B. burgdorferi sensu stricto,

    Max von Pettenkofer Institute, University of Munich, National Reference Center for Borreliae, Munich, Germany.

  • B. afzelii, and B. garinii. In contrast, B. burgdor-feri sensu stricto is the only human-pathogenicspecies in the United States (Wang et al. al1999b). The three human-pathogenic speciescomprise at least seven OspA-serotypes in Eu-rope (Fig. 1) (Wilske et al. 1993c). Skin isolatesprimarily belong to B. afzelii (OspA-type 2), es-pecially those from patients with acrodermati-tis chronica athrophicans, a chronic skin dis-ease not present in America (Canica et al. 1993,Ohlenbusch et al. 1996, Wilske et al. 1993c) (seealso legend of Fig. 1). Isolates from CSF andticks are heterogeneous with a predominanceof B. garinii (Eiffert et al. 1995, van Dam et al.1993, Wilske et al. 1996, Wilske et al. 1993c).Sequence analysis of polymerase chain reac-tion (PCR) ospA amplicons from synovial fluidof Lyme arthritis patients revealed hetero-geneity (Eiffert et al. 1998, Vasiliu et al. 1998),whereas other studies found mainly B.burgdorferi s.s. using PCR based on the 5S/23SrRNA intergenic spacer region (Lnemann etal. 2001) or the flagellin gene (Jaulhac et al.1996 and 2000). The most frequent genomicgroups in Europe B. afzelii and B. garinii occuracross the continent and the islands, whereasthe third frequent group B. burgdorferi s.s. hasonly rarely been isolated in Eastern Europe (fora survey, see Hubalek et al. 1997). Strains maybe very heterogeneous even within small ar-eas (Eiffert et al. 1995, Gern et al. 1999, Michelet al. 2003, Rauter et al. 2002, Rijpkema et al.1996). On the other side a focal prevalence ofcertain species or subtypes was also observed(Michel et al. 2003, Peter et al. 1995). Mixed in-fections have been repeatedly observed in ixo-did ticks (for a survey, see Hubalek et al. 1997)and sometimes also in specimens from patients(Demaerschalck et al. 1995, Vasiliu et al. 1998,Wilske et al. 1996). The heterogeneity of thecausative strains (Fig. 1) is a challenge for themicrobiological diagnosis of Lyme borreliosisin Europe and must be kept in mind for de-velopment of diagnostic tools such as PCRprimers and diagnostic antigens. For example,ospA PCR has been widely used. Here, it is im-portant to be sure that not only representativesof the three species are detected, but also thedifferent ospA-types of the heterogeneous B.garinii group (Eiffert et al. 1995). In addition,PCR should detect B. valaisiana and the re-

    cently detected new genotype A14S since B.valaisiana and genotype A14S might also bepathogenic for humans, as suggested by posi-tive PCR results or cultures obtained from skinbiopsy specimens in a few studies (Rijpkemaet al. 1997, Wang et al. 1999a, Wilske et al.2002). An ospA PCR for detection and differ-entiation of the various European species andOspA-types has been described by Michel(2003).

    Most of the proteins relevant for serodiag-nosis are heterogeneous. Interspecies aminoacid sequence identities are for example only4044% for DbpA (Osp17) and 54-68% forOspC for representative strains of B. burg-dorferi sensu stricto, B. afzelii, and B. garinii(strains B31, PKo, and PBi, respectively)(Table 1). Especially DbpA has a much higheramino acid sequence heterogeneity com-pared to the DNA sequence heterogeneity in-dicating immune selection. However, highlyheterogeneous proteins sometimes have con-served immunogenic epitopes (e.g., the C6peptide of VlsE) (Liang et al. 1999, Liang etal. 2000).



    The German Society of Hygiene and Micro-biology (DGHM) has recently published guide-lines for the microbiological diagnosis of Lymeborreliosis written by an expert committee(MiQ 12 Lyme-Borreliose) (Wilske et al. 2000).The English version is accessible via internet( Except in cases with the pathognomic clin-ical manifestation erythema migrans, the diag-nosis of Lyme borreliosis usually requires confirmation by means of a microbiological di-agnostic assay. Antibody detection methodsmainly are used for this purpose, whereas de-tection of the causative agent by culture isola-tion and nucleic acid techniques is confined tospecial situations, such as to clarify clinicallyand serologically ambiguous findings. Appli-cation of these methods should be reserved tolaboratories specialized in this type of exami-nation.



    FIG. 1


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    For culture and PCR, skin biopsy samples arethe most promising specimens. In general poorresults are obtained from body fluids with theexception of PCR of synovial fluid. Examina-tion of urine (PCR, antigen detection) is not rec-ommended nor the examination (PCR or IFA)of ticks removed from patients in order to de-cide antibiotic prophylaxis (Brettschneider etal. 1998, Kaiser et al. 1998, Klempner et al. 2001,Wilske et al. 2000). Examination of ticks sho