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To compare lymphocyte proliferative responses to Borrelia burgdorferi in healthy controls and patients with
Twelve patients fulfilling case-definition criteria for
Lyme disease. Twelve healthy volunteers and two newborns served as controls.
Antibodies to B. burgdorferi were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Proliferation of peripheral blood lymphocytes cultured for 5 days with B. burgdorferi, recall antigens, or pokeweed mitogen was measured by radioactive thymidine uptake.
Lymphocytes from 11 patients with
Lyme disease, 8 healthy seronegative controls, and two newborns showed elevated responses when stimulated with B. burgdorferi. When a patient and a control were studied on the same day, the patient’s lymphocyte response to B. burgdorferi exceeded the control’s in only 5 of 12 cases. Lymphocytes from both patients and controls responded to B. burgdorferi isolates from three different sources.
Heightened lymphocyte responses to B. burgdorferi are found in patients with
Lyme disease but elevated responses also frequently occur in healthy controls. At present, the interpretation of a positive lymphocyte response to B. burgdorferi would be difficult in ambiguous clinical situations.