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Between 1993 and 1998, we isolated Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato from 55 of the 119 patients with clinically diagnosed
Lyme borreliosis who were admitted to "San Martino" Hospital in Belluno, Veneto, an Adriatic region in northeastern Italy where
Lyme borreliosis is endemic. Upon hospitalization, all patients presented erythema migrans. Isolates were typed using ribosomal DNA PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of the rrfA-rrlB intergenic spacer. Of the 41 isolates typed, 37 belonged to Borrelia afzelii, 2 to Borrelia garinii, and 2 to B. burgdorferi sensu stricto. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, performed on 21 strains (13 new isolates and 8 controls), revealed different RFLP patterns within the B. garinii and B. afzelii strains; among the five B. garinii strains and the 12 B. afzelii strains, three or two different RFLP patterns were identified, according to the restriction enzyme used. The protein patterns of the new isolates confirmed their genotypic classification and revealed the level of expression of some immunodominant proteins like OspA and other characteristic Osps. These findings constitute the first report of such a high recovery rate of B. burgdorferi from patients in a very restricted area in Italy; they also indicate the predominance of the genospecies B. afzelii in the study area and the heterogeneity of the circulating strains.