To determine whether the cross-reactivity between Treponema pallidum and Borrelia burgdorferi affects the specificity of the fluorescent treponemal antibody-absorption (FTA-Abs) test for syphilis, sera from patients with
Lyme disease or syphilis were examined in a quantitative FTA-Abs test. Sera were diluted serially in phosphate-buffered saline, then in sorbent, and were tested with T. pallidum and B. burgdorferi antigens. Nine of 40 sera from patients with known
Lyme disease were reactive at the 1:5 dilution with antigen from T. pallidum; only one serum was reactive at the 1:10 dilution. When both antigens were tested, the titer against B. burgdorferi was always higher than that against T. pallidum. Similarly, sera from patients with syphilis showed cross-reactivity with B. burgdorferi. Although reactivity could be absorbed with Treponemal phagedenis (Reiter strain), simultaneous titration with both antigens was easily performed and designated the etiologic agent.