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Ten years after the discovery of spirochaetes as agents of
Lyme disease in 1982 in the USA, three genomic species had diverged from the phenotypically heterogeneous strains of Borrelia burgdorferi isolated in North America and Europe: Borrelia afzelii, B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (further B. burgdorferi), and Borrelia garinii. Whereas B. burgdorferi remained the only human pathogen in North America, all three species are aetiological agents of
Lyme borreliosis in Europe. Another seven genospecies were described in the 1990s, including species from Asia (Borrelia japonica, Borrelia turdi, and B. tanukii), North America (Borrelia andersonii), Europe (Borrelia lusitaniae and Borrelia valaisiana), and from Europe and Asia (Borrelia bissettii). Another eight species were delineated in the years up to 2010: Borrelia sinica (Asia), Borrelia spielmanii (Europe), Borrelia yangtze (Asia), Borrelia californiensis, Borrelia americana, Borrelia carolinensis (North America), Borrelia bavariensis (Europe), and Borrelia kurtenbachii (North America). Of these 18 genomic species B. afzelii, B. burgdorferi and B. garinii are the confirmed agents of localized, disseminated and chronic manifestations of
Lyme borreliosis, whereas B. spielmanii has been detected in early skin
disease, and B. bissettii and B. valaisiana have been detected in specimens from single cases of
Lyme borreliosis. The clinical role of B. lusitaniae remains to be substantiated.
© 2011 The Authors. Clinical Microbiology and Infection © 2011 European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.