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Serum antibodies from patients with
Lyme disease (LD) were used to affinity select peptide epitopes from 12 large random peptide libraries in phage display format. The selected peptides were surveyed for reactivity with a panel of positive sera (from LD patients) and negative sera (from subjects without LD), thus identifying 17 peptides with a diagnostically useful binding pattern: reactivity with at least three positive sera and no reactivity with any of the negative sera. The peptides define eight sequence motifs, none of which can be matched convincingly with segments of proteins from Borrelia burgdorferi, the LD pathogen; evidently, then, they are "mimotopes," mimicking natural pathogen epitopes without matching contiguous amino acids of pathogen proteins. Peptides like these could be the basis of a new diagnostic enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for LD, with sufficient specificity and sensitivity to replace expensive immunoblotting tests that are currently required for definitive serological diagnosis. Moreover, the method used to discover these peptides did not require any knowledge of the pathogen and involved generic procedures that are applicable to almost any infectious
disease, including emerging diseases for which no pathogen has yet been identified.