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A total of 36 European Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato cerebrospinal fluid isolates (mainly from southern Germany) were analyzed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) for large restriction fragment pattern (LRFP) and linear plasmid profiles. Analyzing this large panel of isolates, we detected all three species of B. burgdorferi sensu lato pathogenic for humans in cerebrospinal fluid from patients with
Lyme neuroborreliosis by PFGE typing after MluI digestion: 21 B. garinii (58%), 10 B. afzelii (28%), and 4 B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (11%) strains as well as 1 isolate with bands characteristic of both B. afzelii and B. garinii. Species classification by PFGE typing was confirmed by 16S rRNA-specific PCR. Eighteen isolates (11 B. garinii, 6 B. afzelii, and 1 B. burgdorferi sensu stricto isolate) were further characterized by LRFP with four different restriction enzymes (ApaI, KspI, SmaI, and XhoI). All B. afzelii isolates showed identical patterns for each restriction enzyme group. Considerable heterogeneity was demonstrated within the B. garinii group. Subsequent analysis of plasmid profiles revealed only marginal differences for B. afzelii strains but different patterns for B. garinii isolates. In one B. afzelii strain we found a linear plasmid of about 110 kbp not described before. LRFP analysis by PFGE is a suitable tool for the molecular characterization of B. burgdorferi sensu lato strains and allows determination not only of the species but also of the subtypes within B. garinii.