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Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, the etiological agent of
Lyme borreliosis is considerably heterogeneous in Europe. Since the outer surface proteins OspA and OspC are the most promising candidates for a Borrelia vaccine the immunological heterogeneity of these proteins was investigated. By immunological analysis with monoclonal antibodies and sequence analysis of PCR amplified OspA and OspC at least seven and 16 different types, respectively, were found. Whereas skin isolates (n = 68) were quite homogeneous (84% belonged to OspA-serotype 2 or Borrelia afzelii), isolates from human cerebrospinal fluid and from ticks (n = 43 and n = 90 respectively) were highly heterogeneous in their OspA-serotypes with prevalence of the Borrelia garinii associated types (about 70%). OspA-type 4 was often found among isolates from cerebrospinal fluid (28%). In ticks type 4 OspA has not been detected by culture so far. However, as reported in a previous study, type 4 OspA could be detected in ticks by the highly sensitive PCR technique.