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A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was developed for use in the identification of a 248-bp fragment of the Borrelia burgdorferi flagellin gene in urine and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from patients with
Lyme neuroborreliosis. The specificities of the PCR products were confirmed by DNA-DNA hybridization with an internal probe. The assay had a detection limit of 10 in vitro-cultivated B. burgdorferi. The PCR assay seemed to be species wide as well as species specific, since DNA from all 21 B. burgdorferi isolates from humans tested but not from Borrelia hermsii or Treponema pallidum could be amplified. We tested 10 consecutively diagnosed patients with untreated neuroborreliosis. There was lymphocytic pleocytosis and intrathecal B. burgdorferi-specific antibody synthesis in the CSF of all patients. Urine and CSF samples were investigated by PCR before, during, and up to 8.5 months after therapy. B. burgdorferi DNA was detected in urine samples from nine patients; five patients, including two patients with chronic neuroborreliosis, were PCR positive prior to treatment, whereas urine samples from the remaining four patients obtained 3 to 6 days after the onset of therapy became PCR positive. All urine samples obtained greater than 4 weeks after therapy were negative by PCR. PCR of CSF was less sensitive, and samples from only four patients, including one with chronic neuroborreliosis, were positive. We conclude that urine is a more suitable sample source than CSF for use in B. burgdorferi DNA detection by PCR. Normalization of inflammatory CSF changes and the negative PCR results during follow-up even in patients with chronic neuroborreliosis do not point to a persistent infection. The future role of PCR as a diagnostic tool for
Lyme neuroborreliosis is still uncertain.