Since the summer of 1982, we have cultured patient specimens for Lyme disease spirochetes. Of 118 patients cultured, four specimens yielded spirochetes: two from blood, one from a skin biopsy specimen of erythema chronicum migrans (ECM), and one from cerebrospinal fluid. All four isolates appeared identical when examined with a monoclonal antibody. However, attempts to recover the spirochete from synovium or synovial fluid were unsuccessful. In addition, the organism could not be visualized in skin or synovial biopsy specimens using the avidin-biotin peroxidase complex detection system. Thus, the current yield in culturing spirochetes from patients is quite low, and it is not yet known whether the organism is still alive later in the disease when arthritis is present.