Distinct levels of genetic diversity of Borrelia burgdorferi are associated with different aspects of pathogenicity

Res Microbiol. 2001 Mar;152(2):149-56. doi: 10.1016/s0923-2508(01)01186-x.


Different species of pathogenic Borrelia show different symptoms and tick vector specificity. Even within regions where only one species is found, Lyme disease progresses very differently from one patient to another. Since Borrelia shows very little recombination either within or between species, alleles of a gene can be used to mark clones. The ospC gene is highly variable within each species and can be used to define groups of related clones. It has been previously shown that only four out of seventeen ospC groups of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto cause invasive forms of the disease. Other groups cause erythema migrans, a skin rash at the site of the tick bite, but not invasive disease, while still other groups seem to be nonpathogenic to humans. In this study we extend the analysis of the ospC gene to the other pathogenic species, Borrelia garinii and Borrelia afzelii. Only two groups in B. afzelii and four groups in B. garinii cause invasive disease. Thus, only ten out of the 58 defined ospC groups cause invasive and presumably chronic Lyme disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Bacterial*
  • Antigens, Surface / genetics
  • Antigens, Surface / immunology
  • Antigens, Surface / metabolism
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / immunology
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Borrelia / genetics*
  • Borrelia / pathogenicity
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / genetics*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / pathogenicity*
  • Erythema Chronicum Migrans / microbiology
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins*
  • Lyme Disease / microbiology
  • Lyme Disease Vaccines / genetics
  • Lyme Disease Vaccines / immunology
  • Lyme Disease Vaccines / metabolism
  • Phylogeny
  • Ticks / microbiology
  • Virulence


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Surface
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Lipoproteins
  • Lyme Disease Vaccines
  • OspA protein
  • OspC protein