The aim of this study was to develop a sensitive and specific PCR for the detection of Borrelia burgdorferi DNA. The plasmid-located gene coding for the outer surface protein A (OspA [31-kDa protein]) was used as a target. Nucleotide sequence information from different B. burgdorferi ospA genotypes was used to design primers homologous to different genotypes. The sensitivity of the nested PCR differed from 1 fg to 1 pg of borrelial DNA, depending on the strain analyzed. No cross-reactions with DNA from spirochetes other than B. burgdorferi or with human DNA were observed. A total of 22 skin biopsy samples from patients with erythema migrans (EM [n = 10]) or acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans (ACA [n = 12]) were examined for the presence of B. burgdorferi by nested PCR. Of 22 biopsies, 80% from EM patients and 92% from ACA patients were positive by PCR amplification. By comparison, 50% of the EM patients had elevated B. burgdorferi-specific immunoglobulin M (IgM) and/or IgG antibody levels as tested by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) using purified B. burgdorferi flagella as antigen. A total of 33% of ACA patients had elevated IgM titers, and all had high IgG titers in their sera. Only 30% of specimens from patients with EM and none from patients with ACA were positive by culture. All culture-positive specimens were also positive by PCR. Thus, the sensitivities of the PCR were 80 and 92%, respectively, for patients with EM and ACA on the basis of the clinical and histopathological diagnoses of
Lyme disease. From these results, we conclude that PCR is a suitable method to detect B. burdorferi sensu lato DNA in skin biopsy samples and could be applied as an additional diagnostic tool.