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Serologic cross-reactivity of antibodies against Borrelia theileri, Borrelia burgdorferi, and Borrelia coriaceae in cattle.

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To evaluate the immune response induced by Borrelia theileri infection and to determine whether B theileri induces cross-reacting antibodies to other bovine borreliae.


Two 3-month-old calves, 1 of which was splenectomized.


Calves were exposed to Boophilus microplus infected with B theileri. Rectal temperature, PCV, bacteremia, and clinical signs of infection were monitored. Serum was obtained weekly and used to evaluate the humoral response to homologous antigen and B burgdorferi and B coriaceae, using an indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA) test, and to B burgdorferi, using a commercially available ELISA. The identity of cross-reacting antigens was explored, using monoclonal antibodies to genus- and species-specific antigens in an IFA test.


B theileri-infected calves produced antibodies that cross-reacted with B burgdorferi and B coriaceae whole-cell antigens. Borrelia theileri whole-cell antigen was recognized by genus-specific monoclonal antibody H9724 but not by species-specific antibody H5332. False-positive reactions were not observed when serum from B theileri-infected calves was tested by use of the ELISA for B burgdorferi.


B theileri induces humoral responses in infected cattle that can be confused with those of other borrelial infections. Care must be taken to definitively distinguish between the various borreliae that may cause
disease in cattle.


Serologic cross-reactivity must be taken into account when making a serodiagnosis of
Lyme borreliosis or epizootic abortion in epidemiologic studies involving cattle.

Am J Vet Res. 1999 Jun;60(6):694-7.

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