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Invariable region (IR)(6), an immunodominant conserved region of VlsE, the antigenic variation protein of Borrelia burgdorferi, is currently used for the serologic diagnosis of
Lyme disease in humans and canines. A longitudinal assessment of anti-IR(6) antibody levels in B. burgdorferi-infected rhesus monkeys revealed that this level diminished sharply after antibiotic treatment (within 25 weeks). In contrast, antibody levels to P39 and to whole-cell antigen extracts of B. burgdorferi either remained unchanged or diminished less. A longitudinal analysis in dogs yielded similar results. In humans, the anti-IR(6) antibody titer diminished by a factor of > or =4 in successfully treated patients and by a factor of <4 in treatment-resistant patients. This result suggests that the quantification of anti-IR(6) antibody titer as a function of time should be investigated further as a test to assess response to
Lyme disease therapy or to determine whether a B. burgdorferi infection has been eliminated.