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The causative agent of
Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, was first identified by Burgdorfer et al. in 1982 (W. Burgdorfer, A. G. Barbour, S. F. Hayes, J. L. Benach, E. Grunwaldt, and J. P. Davis, Science 216:1317-1319, 1982) and was isolated by Barbour et al. in 1983 (A. G. Barbour, W. Burgdorfer, S. E. Hayes, O. Peter, and A. Aeschlimann, Curr. Microbiol. 8:123-126, 1983). Since then, a large number of isolates have been collected, and there have been questions regarding the relationships among the various strains. Using genomic fingerprinting by an arbitrarily primed polymerase chain reaction, we resolved into three groups a collection of Eurasian and North American isolates of spirochetes that are generally categorized as B. burgdorferi. Group I strains have been identified in both North America and Eurasia, while strains belonging to Borrelia groups II and III have been found only in Eurasia. These same three groups have also been delineated by Baranton et al. (G. Baranton, D. Postic, I. Saint Girons, P. Boerlin, J.-C. Piffaretti, M. Assous, and P. A. D. Grimont, Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 42:370-375, 1992) by independent methods. Two isolates are distinct from all of the other strains in our collection but are clearly members of the genus Borrelia.