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Solitary lymphocytoma is a rare cutaneous manifestation of
Lyme borreliosis that has been reported almost exclusively from Europe. This suggests that its etiologic agent may be absent or extremely rare on the North American continent. All three species of B. burgdorferi sensu lato known to be associated with human
Lyme borreliosis (B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, B. garinii, and B. afzelii have been isolated in Europe, whereas only B. burgdorferi sensu stricto has been found in North America. This suggests that either B. garinii or B. afzelii might be the etiologic agent of borrelial lymphocytoma. To investigate this hypothesis we characterized five strains of B. burgdorferi sensu lato isolated from lymphocytoma lesions of patients residing in Slovenia. The methods used included: large restriction fragment pattern analysis of restriction enzyme MluI-digested genomic DNA, plasmid profiling, protein profiling, ribotyping using 5S, 16S, and 23S rDNA probes, and polymerase chain reaction amplification of the rrf (5S)-rrl (23S) intergenic spacer region. Molecular subtyping showed that four of the five isolates belonged to the species B. afzelii; however, this species is the predominant patient isolate in Slovenia and, therefore, may not represent a preferential association with lymphocytoma. The fifth isolate appeared to be most closely related to the DN127 genomic group of organisms. Further characterization of the isolate revealed that it possessed a unique molecular "fingerprint." The results not only show that borrelial lymphocytoma can be caused by B. afzelii but also demonstrate an association with another genomic group of B. burgdorferi sensu lato that is present in North America as well.