White-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), the primary reservoir for Borrelia burgdorferi in the northern midwest and northeastern United States, were experimentally inoculated with an infectious strain or a noninfectious strain of the
Lyme disease spirochete and examined for their specific antibody response with the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blot (immunoblot) analysis. Immunoglobulin M (IgM) anti-B. burgdorferi antibodies were detected in mice 1 to 2 days after inoculation with either the infectious or noninfectious strain of spirochetes and peaked on days 4 and 5. Mice inoculated with the infectious strain of spirochete had a secondary increase in IgM 21 days after inoculation. Mice also produced both IgG1 and IgG2 antibodies beginning 5 to 7 days after inoculation and they increased in titer until 84 days after inoculation when the experiment was terminated. Western blot analysis of sequential plasma samples from mice inoculated with the infectious strain of spirochete demonstrated the development of IgM, IgG1, and IgG2 antibodies to numerous spirochetal antigens, whereas mice inoculated with the noninfectious strain had reduced blot patterns with antibodies reactive primarily to the 31,000-kilodalton outer surface protein A. Persistent spirochetal infection in some mice, in spite of a strong and diverse antibody response, deserves further investigation.