Detection of antibody to C6, a peptide that reproduces the sequence of the sixth invariable region within the central domain of the VlsE protein of Borrelia burgdorferi, is used currently for the serologic diagnosis of
Lyme disease in humans. B. burgdorferi isolates taken from infected humans can be categorized into specific genetic subtypes (designated RST1, -2, and -3) by restriction fragment length polymorphisms in the 16S to 23S rRNA spacer sequence. Many of these, usually categorized as RST2, retain only segments of the linear plasmid lp28-1, which encodes VlsE. The VlsE genetic region is retained, but altered expression of this molecule could affect diagnosis by the C6 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Serum samples from patients infected with each of the three genotypes and from mice infected with three RST2 isolates were tested with the C6 ELISA. Such isolates elicited marked C6 responses in infected mice. The sensitivity of C6 antibody detection in patients infected with RST2 spirochetes was statistically indistinguishable from detection of RST1 and RST3 infections. These findings demonstrate that diagnosis by C6 ELISA remains effective for infection with all B. burgdorferi genotypes, including those with incomplete lp28-1 plasmids.