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Ninety-three Borrelia burgdorferi isolates obtained from erythema migrans lesions or blood of
Lyme disease patients in Westchester County, N.Y., between 1991 and 1994 were characterized by PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) analysis of the 16S-23S rRNA gene spacer. All isolates could be classified into three distinct RFLP types. Among the 82 skin biopsy isolates studied, 21 (25.6%) were type 1, 37 (45.1%) were type 2, and 21 (25.6%) were type 3. Three (3.7%) cultures contained a mixture of two isolates with distinct RFLP types. The 11 isolates cultured from blood showed a similar predominance of RFLP type 2 (6 of 11; 54.5%) relative to types 1 (2 of 11; 18.2%) and 3 (3 of 11; 27.3%). For one patient both skin and blood isolates were cultured, and RFLP analysis revealed that these isolates differed from one another. This study demonstrates that there is genotypic heterogeneity in B. burgdorferi strains infecting
Lyme disease patients, and this typing approach may allow differentiation of isolates with various degrees of pathogenic potential.