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Fifteen Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato isolates from questing ticks and skin biopsy specimens from erythema migrans patients in three different areas of Spain were characterized. Four different genospecies were found (nine Borrelia garinii, including the two human isolates, three B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, two B. valaisiana, and one B. lusitaniae), showing a diverse spectrum of B. burgdorferi sensu lato species. B. garinii isolates were highly variable in terms of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis pattern and OspA serotype, with four of the seven serotypes described. One of the human isolates was OspA serotype 5, the same found in four of seven tick isolates. The second human isolate was OspA serotype 3, which was not present in ticks from the same area. Seven B. garinii isolates were able to disseminate through the skin of C3H/HeN mice and to cause severe inflammation of joints. One of the two B. valaisiana isolates also caused
disease in mice. Only one B. burgdorferi sensu stricto isolate was recovered from the urinary bladder. One isolate each of B. valaisiana and B. lusitaniae were not able to disseminate through the skin of mice or to infect internal organs. In summary, there is substantial diversity in the species and in the pathogenicity of B. burgdorferi sensu lato in areas in northern Spain where
Lyme disease is endemic.