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Twenty-three experimental cattle, mainly calves, were each inoculated 1-3 times with one of ten Finnish Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato strains. All three genospecies were represented. Borreliae were administered mainly by both intravenous (about 10(6) to 10(9) spirochaetes) and intradermal (10(4)) routes, and on six occasions subcutaneously (10(3)) only. For infectivity control and comparison purposes mice and rabbits were inoculated simultaneously. Immune responses in cattle were monitored both with whole-cell sonicate enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (IgG-ELISA) and indirect immunofluorescent assay (IgM-IgG-IFA). Five Finnish strains and the American strain B31 were used as antigens. No clinical signs of borreliosis were observed. Of the strains, 7/10 were interpreted by the immune responses to have caused relatively short-term subclinical infections of varying intensity. Borreliae could not be isolated from blood or other organ specimens of cattle. A rough estimate of the mean infectious dose in the conditions of experiments is 10(6) to 10(7) organisms. In conclusion, the overall result appears to argue a low susceptibility of cattle to clinical borreliosis, at least when infected by Finnish strains of the agent. Significant antigen-specific differences were observed both by ELISA and IFA in detection and quantification of immune responses. As a rule, the homologous antigen was found to be the most sensitive. Genospecies differences were mostly distinct. Antigens of two Borrelia garinii isolates proved practically equal in sensitivity, whereas major differences were displayed between two Borrelia afzelii antigens. In an IFA study, an American (B31) and a Finnish B. burgdorferi sensu stricto strain proved equally sensitive as antigens. In two relatively strong primary immune responses the antigen-specific measurement differences were such that diagnostically in a cross-sectional study only the homologous antigen or an antigen of the same genospecies would have been sufficiently sensitive to show a positive result.