The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 37 patients with early
Lyme neuroborreliosis (ELN) and of 10 patients with late
Lyme neuroborreliosis (LLN, duration of symptoms > or = 7 months) was investigated for typical features differentiating between acute and chronic courses of
disease. Individual patients were studied after 2 and 4 weeks, and 3, 6, and 12 months. Patients with ELN presented predominantly with symptoms of the peripheral nervous system, while patients with LLN generally suffered from symptoms of the central nervous system. At the first lumbar puncture, patients with ELN revealed a more intense pleocytosis in the CSF (P < 0.02) and a higher intrathecal synthesis of total IgM (P < 0.0003) and of Borrelia burgdorferi-specific IgM antibodies (P < 0.01). At the same time, in patients with LLN, the blood-CSF barrier was more severely impaired (P = 0.03), and local production of total IgG (P = 0.0001), of B. burgdorferi-specific IgG antibodies (P = 0.03) and of total IgA (P = 0.001) was more markedly increased. The quantity of intrathecally produced B. burgdorferi-specific IgA antibodies did not differ between the two study groups. Clinical recovery was usually accompanied by a considerable improvement of the blood-CSF barrier function and pleocytosis. After 6 months, the intrathecal synthesis of total IgG had significantly decreased in patients with ELN but not in those with LLN. At the same time, the CSF of most patients in both study groups still contained intrathecally produced B. burgdorferi-specific IgG antibodies. In the absence of clinical illness or symptoms of inflammation 6 and 12 months after treatment, B. burgdorferi-specific IgG antibodies in the CSF might simply indicate an anamnestic reaction to a previous infection of the central nervous system. Six months after antibiotic treatment, patients with ELN still revealed evidence of intrathecal synthesis of total IgM, whereas those with LLN did not. These antibodies, however, were not related to B. burgdorferi.