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Although Borrelia theileri, the agent of bovine borreliosis, was described at the turn of the century (in 1903), its relationship with borreliae causing
Lyme disease or relapsing fever remains undescribed. We tested the previously published hypothesis that spirochetes infecting Lone Star ticks (Amblyomma americanum) may comprise B. theileri by analyzing the 16S ribosomal DNAs (rDNAs) and flagellin genes of these spirochetes. B. theileri, the Amblyomma agent, and B. miyamotoi formed a natural group or clade distinct from but most closely related to that of the relapsing fever spirochetes. B. theileri and the Amblyomma agent were 97 and 98% similar at the nucleotide level within the analyzed portions of the 16S rDNA and the flagellin gene respectively, suggesting a recent divergence. The agent of bovine borreliosis might be explored as a surrogate antigen for the as-yet-uncultivatable Amblyomma agent in studies designed to explore the etiology of a
Lyme disease-like infection associated with Lone Star ticks.