The polymerase chain reaction for the detection of Borrelia burgdorferi in human body fluids

Arthritis Rheum. 1993 May;36(5):665-75. doi: 10.1002/art.1780360514.


Objective: To analyze clinical fluids for the presence of Borrelia burgdorferi DNA using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

Methods: We utilized a modified, nested PCR to detect the presence of Borrelia DNA in 99 samples of serum, urine, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), or synovial fluid obtained from 44 patients with various stages of Lyme disease and 47 control subjects. Primer specificity was corroborated by examining 2 DNA data banks, testing against DNA from other organisms, and confirming results with a second set of nested primers.

Results: Nested PCR was capable of detecting DNA from fewer than 10 organisms in 1 ml of fluid. The specificity of this technique was 96.4%, with a sensitivity of 76.7%. Although the specificity was uniformly high, the sensitivity was dependent upon the body fluid being tested: CSF 100%, urine 100%, synovial fluid 80%, and serum 59%. The rate of false-positive results was 3.6%.

Conclusion: These data demonstrate the potential utility of PCR in confirming the clinical diagnosis of Lyme disease as well as providing insight into the pathogenesis of various stages of this disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / genetics
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / isolation & purification*
  • DNA, Bacterial / blood*
  • DNA, Bacterial / cerebrospinal fluid
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / urine
  • Gene Library
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • DNA, Bacterial