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Viable Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi) organisms induce a chronic infection associated with arthritis, carditis and hepatitis in severe combined immunodeficiency (scid) mice but not in most of the adult mice from the various immunocompetent inbred strains tested. Furthermore, we have found that experimental inoculation of normal mice with B. burgdorferi organisms leads to the generation of antibodies and T cells specific for various spirochetal antigens including the outer surface proteins A and B (OspA, OspB) as well as flagellin. The assumption of a protective role of the immune response during B. burgdorferi infection in mice is supported by our recent findings that passively transferred B. burgdorferi-specific immune mouse sera as well as monoclonal antibodies to OspA are able to prevent the development of the
disease in scid mice. We show now that purified OspA protein both in its native and recombinant form is immunogenic and that the antibodies generated are able to confer protection to scid mice against B. burgdorferi infection.