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To determine if end-stage dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is associated with the presence of
Lyme disease causing spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi in the myocardium, we used nested polymerase chain reaction to detect B burgdorferi DNA in myocardial samples from explanted hearts of patients with end-stage DCM. Patients originated from endemic areas for
Lyme disease (Bavaria, Lower Saxony, Germany).
METHODS AND RESULTS:
This was a retrospective study. Polymerase chain reaction was used to detect the specific B burgdorferi recombinant outer surface protein A (OspA) gene in myocardial tissue from 68 patients with end-stage DCM who had undergone heart transplantation. The clinical history of
Lyme disease, the presence of Borrelia burgdorferi OspA, and antibodies against OspA in myocardial tissue and serum were investigated. B burgdorferi DNA was not detected in any of the 68 human hearts. Immunoglobulin G antibodies against specific B burgdorferi antigens were observed in 3 (12.5%) of 24 patients. In contrast, 4 hearts from rats experimentally infected with B burgdorferi were all positive for OspA DNA as measured by polymerase chain reaction.
Our data show that cardiac myocytes of hearts obtained from subjects with end-stage DCM did not contain B burgdorferi DNA as investigated by polymerase chain reaction. However, B burgdorferi shows a high affinity for myocardial tissue as shown by the animal studies, indicating that myocardial infections are nevertheless possible.