Acquired resistance to Borrelia burgdorferi infection in the rabbit. Comparison between outer surface protein A vaccine- and infection-derived immunity

J Clin Invest. 1997 Apr 15;99(8):2030-5. doi: 10.1172/JCI119371.


Intradermal inoculation of the rabbit with Borrelia burgdorferi, sensu lato, results in the consistent development of erythema migrans (EM), dermal infection, and visceral dissemination of the spirochete. Within 5 mo, EM as well as dermal and visceral infection are cleared and the animals exhibit immunity to reinfection. This study compares infection-derived immunity with acquired resistance resulting from the administration of a lipidated recombinant outer surface protein A (OspA) vaccine presently undergoing human trial. 4 of 11 OspA vaccinated rabbits, challenged intradermally at each of 10 sites with 10(5) low passage B. burgdorferi, developed EM as well as dermal and disseminated infection. After identical challenge, 2 of the 11 infection-immune rabbits developed a dermal infection, but not EM or disseminated infection. Further, ELISA anti-OspA titers did not correlate with the status of immunity for either OspA vaccinated or infection-immune rabbits. Prechallenge ELISA anti-OspA titers were relatively low in the infection-immune group. This study demonstrates that a state of partial immunity to experimental Lyme disease may result that could potentially mask infection. Further, our data strongly suggest that immunogen(s) other than OspA is/are responsible for stimulating acquired resistance in the infection-immune rabbit.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Antigens, Surface / immunology*
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / immunology*
  • Bacterial Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intradermal
  • Lipoproteins*
  • Lyme Disease / immunology*
  • Lyme Disease / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Rabbits
  • Vaccination


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