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VlsE, the variable surface antigen of Borrelia burgdorferi, contains an immunodominant conserved region named IR(6). In the present study, the diagnostic performance of a peptide enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) based on a 26-mer synthetic peptide (C(6)) with the IR(6) sequence was explored. Sensitivity was assessed with serum samples (n = 210) collected from patients with clinically defined
Lyme disease at the acute (early localized or early disseminated
disease), convalescent, or late
disease phase. The sensitivities for acute-, convalescent-, and late-phase specimens were 74% (29 of 39), 85 to 90% (34 of 40 to 35 of 39), and 100% (59 of 59), respectively. Serum specimens from early neuroborreliosis patients were 95% positive (19 of 20), and those from an additional group of patients with posttreatment
Lyme disease syndrome yielded a sensitivity of 62% (8 of 13). To assess the specificity of the peptide ELISA, 77 serum samples from patients with other spirochetal or chronic infections, autoimmune diseases, or neurologic diseases and 99 serum specimens from hospitalized patients in an area where
Lyme disease is not endemic were examined. Only two potential false positives from the hospitalized patients were found, and the overall specificity was 99% (174 of 176). Precision, which was assessed with a panel of positive and negative serum specimens arranged in blinded duplicates, was 100%. Four serum samples with very high anti-OspA antibody titers obtained from four monkeys given the OspA vaccine did not react with the C(6) peptide. This simple, sensitive, specific, and precise ELISA may contribute to alleviate some of the remaining problems in
Lyme disease serodiagnosis. Because of its synthetic peptide base, it will be inexpensive to manufacture. It also will be applicable to serum specimens from OspA-vaccinated subjects.