Subscribe to the World's Most Popular Newsletter (it's free!)
Lyme borreliosis is caused by at least three species, B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, B. afzelii and B. garinii. Thus microbiological diagnosis in European patients must consider the heterogeneity of
Lyme disease borreliae for development of diagnostic tools such as PCR primers and diagnostic antigens. According to guidelines of the German Society of Hygiene and Microbiology, the serological diagnosis should follow the principle of a two-step procedure. A sensitive ELISA differentiating IgM and IgG is recommended as the first step. In case the ELISA is reactive, it is followed by immunoblots (IgM and IgG) as the second step. The reactive diagnostic bands should be clearly identified, which is easy if recombinant antigens are used. The sensitivity and standardization of immunoblots has been considerably enhanced by use of recombinant antigens instead of whole cell lysates. Improved sensitivity resulted from use of recombinant proteins that are expressed primarily in vivo (e.g., VlsE) and combination of homologous proteins from different strains of borrelia (e.g., DbpA). It also appears promising to use recombinant proteins (DbpA, VlsE, others) or synthetic peptides (the conserved C6 peptide derived from VlsE) as ELISA antigens. At present, detection rates for serum antibodies are 20-50% in stage I, 70-90% in stage II, and nearly 100% in stage III
Lyme disease. The main goals for the future are to improve specificity in general and sensitivity for diagnosis of early manifestations (stage I and II). Detection of the etiological agent by culture or PCR should be confined to specific indications and specialised laboratories. Recommended specimens are skin biopsy specimens, CSF and synovial fluid. The best results are obtained from skin biopsies with culture or PCR (50-70%) and synovial tissue or fluid (50-70% with PCR). CSF yields positive results in only 10-30% of patients. Methods that are not recommended for diagnostic purposes are antigen tests in body fluids, PCR of urine, and lymphocyte transformation tests.