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To determine whether
Lyme disease spirochaetes (Borrelia burgdorferi) within vector ticks (lxodes dammini) sampled from enzootic sites comprise single or mixed populations, we compared their reactivity to a polyclonal rabbit immune serum with that to a battery of monoclonal antibodies (mAb) against OspA, OspB and flagellin. More spirochaetes were recognized by the polyclonal antibody than with the mAbs. Spirochaetes from field-sampled ticks reacted poorly to mAbs against OspB. No such differences in reactivity to polyclonal or monoclonal antibodies were observed for the N40 strain of B. burgdorferi from BSK cultures and infected laboratory-reared vector ticks. We conclude that in nature each tick may be infected by an antigenically heterogeneous mixture of spirochaetes.