Detection of Borrelia burgdorferi-specific antigen in antibody-negative cerebrospinal fluid in neurologic Lyme disease

Neurology. 1995 Nov;45(11):2010-5. doi: 10.1212/wnl.45.11.2010.


Objective: To determine the potential of detection in CSF of specific Borrelia burgdorferi antigen, OspA, as a marker of infection in neurologic Lyme disease and compare this with the detection of antibody.

Design: CSF from 83 neurologic patients in an area highly endemic for Lyme disease was examined prospectively for (1) OspA by antigen capture ELISA and Western blot employing monoclonal antibodies, and for (2) B burgdorferi antibodies by ELISA.

Results: Of the 35 of 83 (42%) patients who were positive for OspA antigen in their CSF, 15 (43%) were antigen positive despite being antibody-negative in CSF. Seven of these 15 (47%) had otherwise normal routine CSF analyses. Six of these 15 (40%) patients met strict CDC surveillance criteria for Lyme disease; four (27%) patients had seroconversion coincident with new neurologic problems; and three (20%) with characteristic syndromes for Lyme disease were seronegative, but had complexed antibody to B burgdorferi. The final two patients (13%) were seropositive and had unexplained neurologic problems not characteristic of Lyme disease.

Conclusions: B burgdorferi antigen can be detected in CSF that is otherwise normal by conventional methodology, and can be present without positive CSF antibody. Since CSF antigen implies intrathecal seeding of the infection, the diagnosis of neurologic infection by B burgdorferi should not be excluded solely on the basis of normal routine CSF or negative CSF antibody analyses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Antigens, Bacterial / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Antigens, Surface / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / isolation & purification*
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins*
  • Lyme Disease / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Lyme Disease / complications
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Surface
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Lipoproteins
  • OspA protein