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In 1988, antibodies to arthropod (Ixodes dammini, Dermacentor variabilis, and Aedes aegypti) salivary gland proteins and to Borrelia burgdorferi were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in 53 high-risk outdoor workers from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
Lyme disease seropositives had significantly higher anti-I. dammini antibody levels than seronegative controls (p = 0.006). Anti-B. burgdorferi antibody (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and anti-I. dammini antibody titers were highly correlated in these workers (r = 0.49, p = 0.0002). Quantitative self-reported tick exposure (tick bites in the past year) and anti-I. dammini antibody titers were significantly correlated (r = 0.27, p = 0.05), and persons without tick exposure had lower anti-I. dammini antibody levels (p = 0.009) than persons with known exposure. A second serum sample obtained 3 months after the first after a period of decreased tick exposure (the winter) revealed that the anti-I. dammini antibody levels had significantly declined (p = 0.0004). Additional experiments revealed that the antibody was not completely specific for I. dammini but was relatively specific for the two tick species examined compared with A. aegypti. The data hold promise that this antibody may be a useful tool in
Lyme disease research as a biologic marker of tick exposure.