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Chlamydia trachomatis and Borrelia burgdorferi infections are frequently the cause of unexplained oligoarthritis, as shown by identification of bacteria specific DNA in joint material from patients with reactive arthritis,
Lyme arthritis, and undifferentiated oligoarthritis. The aim of this study was to determine whether the two organisms occur simultaneously in joint material from patients with arthritis.
Seventy six patients with unexplained arthritis were prospectively studied. Synovial fluid was obtained from all patients and examined for DNA from C trachomatis and B burgdorferi using specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) protocols. Data concerning prior genitourinary infection or a history of tick bite were recorded and serum antibodies to C trachomatis and B burgdorferi were determined.
Six patients (8%) had DNA from both C trachomatis and B burgdorferi in the same synovial fluid specimen (mean leucocyte count 11.925/mm(3), 65% granulocytes). These patients (four men, two women; mean age 33.7 years) all had oligoarthritis of the knee, ankle, or both (mean
disease duration 11.3 months). From the history and serological examination, four patients had some evidence of actual or previous infection with one or other of the bacteria, while the other two patients had a positive serological test for Chlamydia only.
DNA from two different microorganisms which are known to be triggering agents for arthritis may be present simultaneously in joint material from patients with unexplained oligoarthritis. This finding raises the question as to whether, in such cases, one or both bacteria contribute to the pathogenesis of the
disease or whether they are only innocent bystanders.