Infectious agents are likely to play a role in the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory diseases, including abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs). The goal of this study was to determine if Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (sl), a microorganism responsible for
Lyme disease, is involved in the etiology of AAAs. The presence of serum antibodies against B. burgdorferi sl was measured with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and confirmed by Western blotting in 96 AAA and 108 peripheral artery
disease (PAD) patients. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used for the detection of Borrelia-specific DNA in the aneurysm wall. Among AAA patients 34% and among PAD patients 16% were seropositive for B. burgdorferi sl antibodies (Fisher’s exact test, p = 0.003; odds ratio [OR] 2.79; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.37-5.85). In the German general population, 3-17% are seropositive for Borrelia antibodies. No Borrelia DNA was detected in the aneurysm wall. Our findings suggest a relationship between AAAs and B. burgdorferi sl. We hypothesize that the underlying mechanism for B. burgdorferi sl in AAA formation is similar to that by the spirochete Treponema pallidum; alternatively, AAAs could develop due to induced autoimmunity via molecular mimicry due to similarities between some of the B. burgdorferi sl proteins and aortic proteins.