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We have analyzed a panel of independent North American isolates of the
Lyme disease agent spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi (sensu stricto), for the presence of linear plasmids with sequence similarities to the 12 linear plasmids present in the B. burgdorferi type strain, isolate B31. The frequency of similarities to probes from each of the 12 B31 plasmids varied from 13 to 100% in the strain panel examined, and these similarities usually reside on plasmids similar in size to the cognate B31 plasmid. Sequences similar to 5 of the 12 B31 plasmids were found in all of the isolates examined, and >66% of the panel members hybridized to probes from 4 other plasmids. Sequences similar to most of the B. burgdorferi B31 plasmid-derived DNA probes used were also found on linear plasmids in the related Eurasian
Lyme agents Borrelia garinii and Borrelia afzelii; however, some of these plasmids had uniform but substantially different sizes from their B. burgdorferi counterparts.