Sera from selected patients with
Lyme disease in different stages were used to passively immunize mice against Borrelia burgdorferi challenge to determine if human antibodies could protect the animals from infection. Sera from 2 patients with late-stage
Lyme disease that contained strong antibody reactivity to proteins in B. burgdorferi lysates, including antibodies to the outer surface proteins (Osps) A and B, partly protected mice from infection after challenge with a small inoculum (10(2)) of B. burgdorferi. Mice immunized with sera from either of these 2 patients developed significantly fewer infections from the borreliae (patient 1 serum, 5%; patient 2 serum, 25%) relative to control mice (patient 1 serum, 90%; patient 2 serum, 74%). In contrast, sera from 2 patients with early or late
Lyme disease that lacked antibodies reactive to OspA and OspB did not confer protection. Immunity appeared to be related, at least in part, to the presence of a strong humoral response to the Osps. These results suggest that during prolonged infection, some patients develop an immune response that may be partly protective against reinfection with B. burgdorferi. Therefore, although most patients do not mount a strong humoral response to the Osps during natural infection, vaccination with an Osp may elicit protective immunity.