Imbalanced presence of Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. multilocus sequence types in clinical manifestations of Lyme borreliosis

Infect Genet Evol. 2016 Aug;42:66-76. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2016.04.019. Epub 2016 Apr 25.


In this study we used typing based on the eight multilocus sequence typing scheme housekeeping genes (MLST) and 5S-23S rDNA intergenic spacer (IGS) to explore the population structure of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato isolates from patients with Lyme borreliosis (LB) and to test the association between the B. burgdorferi s.l. sequence types (ST) and the clinical manifestations they cause in humans. Isolates of B. burgdorferi from 183 LB cases across Europe, with distinct clinical manifestations, and 257 Ixodes ricinus lysates from The Netherlands, were analyzed for this study alone. For completeness, we incorporated in our analysis also 335 European B. burgdorferi s.l. MLST profiles retrieved from literature. Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia bavariensis were associated with human cases of LB while Borrelia garinii, Borrelia lusitaniae and Borrelia valaisiana were associated with questing I. ricinus ticks. B. afzelii was associated with acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans, while B. garinii and B. bavariensis were associated with neuroborreliosis. The samples in our study belonged to 251 different STs, of which 94 are newly described, adding to the overall picture of the genetic diversity of Borrelia genospecies. The fraction of STs that were isolated from human samples was significantly higher for the genospecies that are known to be maintained in enzootic cycles by mammals (B. afzelii, B. bavariensis, and Borrelia spielmanii) than for genospecies that are maintained by birds (B. garinii and B. valaisiana) or lizards (B. lusitaniae). We found six multilocus sequence types that were significantly associated to clinical manifestations in humans and five IGS haplotypes that were associated with the human LB cases. While IGS could perform just as well as the housekeeping genes in the MLST scheme for predicting the infectivity of B. burgdorferi s.l., the advantage of MLST is that it can also capture the differential invasiveness of the various STs.

Keywords: 5S-23S rDNA intergenic spacer; Acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans; Borrelia burgdorferi s.l.; Erythema migrans; Multilocus sequence typing; Neuroborreliosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachnid Vectors / microbiology*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / classification
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / genetics*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi / isolation & purification
  • DNA, Intergenic / genetics*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Ixodes / microbiology*
  • Lyme Disease / diagnosis
  • Lyme Disease / epidemiology*
  • Lyme Disease / microbiology
  • Male
  • Multilocus Sequence Typing
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 23S / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 5S / genetics


  • DNA, Intergenic
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 23S
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 5S