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In an effort to implicate immune responses to specific Borrelia burgdorferi proteins that may have a role in chronic
Lyme arthritis, we studied the natural history of the antibody response to B. burgdorferi in serial serum samples from 25 patients monitored throughout the course of
Lyme disease. In these patients, the immunoglobulin G (IgM) and IgG antibody responses to 10 recombinant B. burgdorferi proteins, determined during early infection, early arthritis, and maximal arthritis, were correlated with the severity and duration of maximal arthritis. The earliest responses were usually to outer surface protein C (OspC), P35, P37, and P41; reactivity with OspE, OspF, P39, and P93 often developed weeks later; and months to years later, 64% of patients had responses to OspA and OspB. During early infection and early arthritis, the levels of IgG antibody to P35 correlated inversely with the subsequent severity or duration of maximal arthritis. In contrast, during periods of maximal arthritis, the levels of IgG antibody to OspA and OspB, especially to a C-terminal epitope of OspA, correlated directly with the severity and duration of arthritis. Thus, the higher the IgG antibody response to P35 earlier in the infection, the milder and briefer the subsequent arthritis, whereas during maximal arthritis, the higher the IgG response to OspA and OspB, the more severe and prolonged the arthritis.