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The laboratory diagnosis of
Lyme borreliosis, the most prevalent vector-borne
disease in the United States and endemic in parts of Europe and Asia, is currently based on serology with known limitations. Direct demonstration of Borrelia burgdorferi by culture may require weeks, while enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays for antigen detection often lack sensitivity. The development of the PCR has offered a new dimension in the diagnosis. Capable of amplifying minute amounts of DNA into billions of copies in just a few hours, PCR facilitates the sensitive and specific detection of DNA or RNA of pathogenic organisms. This review is restricted to applications of PCR methods in the diagnosis of human B. burgdorferi infections. In the first section, methodological aspects, e.g., sample preparation, target selection, primers and PCR methods, and detection and control of inhibition and contamination, are highlighted. In the second part, emphasis is placed on diagnostic aspects, where PCR results in patients with dermatological, neurological, joint, and ocular manifestations of the
disease are discussed. Here, special attention is given to monitoring treatment efficacy by PCR tests. Last, specific guidelines on how to interpret PCR results, together with the advantages and limitations of these new techniques, are presented.