Borrelia burgdorferi causes a wide range of neurologic syndromes. In Europe, acute meningoradiculitis is the most common manifestation.
To address the nature of the immune response during the course of B burgdorferi meningoradiculitis, with special respect to the early and late changes in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
Serial immunophenotyping was performed and cytokine measurements were obtained in the peripheral blood and CSF of 12 European patients with definite B burgdorferi meningoradiculitis.
Early during infection and before initiation of treatment, we observed high levels of interleukin (IL) 10, IL-6, and IL-8, and large numbers of B cells and plasma cells in the CSF of most patients. At the same time, we found a mainly unspecific intrathecal antibody synthesis. During resolution of the infection, cytokine levels normalized rapidly and plasma cells disappeared from the CSF. In parallel, the percentage of B cells in the CSF increased over several months, accompanied by rising levels of intrathecally produced B burgdorferi-specific antibodies.
Our findings demonstrate that the early phase of B burgdorferi meningoradiculitis is characterized by a well-coordinated immune response involving specific cytokine release and plasma cell recruitment, followed by a long-lasting, antigen-specific B-cell response in the central nervous system.