This survey evaluates the specificity of band patterns in immunoblot of sera taken from clinically defined cases of Lyme arthritis and neuroborreliosis, towards three locally isolated strains of Borrelia burgdorferi, belonging to the three species: Borrelia sensu stricto, Borrelia garinii and Borrelia afzelii. To assess specificity, patient sera were statistically (X2, P < or = 0.05) compared with blood donors sera samples. Both IgG and IgM antibodies were considered. The overall reactivity of the three Borrelia strains in IgG immunoblots indicated that ten protein bands were significant, with a different prevalence of some of them in the two groups of patient sera: bands at 60-58, 30-33, 36-37 and 28-27 kDa were markers for neuroborreliosis sera; proteins at 100-83, 72-70 and 18-17 kDa behaved like markers for Lyme arthritis. The IgM Immunoblots revealed significant bands at 100-83, 72-70, 51, 24-21 and 18-17 kDa only with neuroborreliosis sera. Though there were variable band reactivities in each strain, a correlation emerged between the three genospecies and the clinical symptoms: in fact B. afzelii and B. garinii were prevalent in Lyme arthritis sera, (IgG Immunoblots); B. garinii was associated to neuroborreliosis (IgG and IgM Immunoblots); B. sensu stricto was strongly reactive with neuroborreliosis in IgM immunoblots. These data indicate that the three locally strains of Borrelia representing the three genospecies should be used together in immunoblot to detect antibodies elicited in neuroborreliosis and Lyme arthritis.