Heterogeneity of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato demonstrated by an ospA-type-specific PCR in synovial fluid from patients with Lyme arthritis

Med Microbiol Immunol. 1998 Oct;187(2):97-102. doi: 10.1007/s004300050079.


Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, the etiological agent of Lyme borreliosis, has been divided into three genospecies: B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (OspA-type 1), B. afzelii (OspA-type 2) and B. garinii (OspA-type 3-7). Whereas in Europe B. afzelii (OspA-type 2) is predominant among human skin isolates and B. garinii (OspA-type 3-7) among human CSF isolates, some previous serological studies suggested that Lyme arthritis is also associated with B. burgdorferi sensu stricto in Europe. In the present study we designed ospA type-specific PCRs and identified four different ospA types associated with Lyme arthritis. Our study group consisted of 20 patients with positive serology (ELISA and immunoblotting) and clinical criteria for Lyme arthritis. B. burgdorferi DNA was detected in 13 patients and in none of 10 control patients from synovial fluid. We identified ospA-type 1 (26.6%), ospA-type 2 (33.3%), ospA-type 4 (6.6%) and ospA-type 5 (33.3%). Our conclusion is that in Europe B. burgdorferi sensu lato strains causing Lyme arthritis are considerably heterogeneous and that there is no prevalence of certain genospecies or OspA-types among this strains.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antigens, Surface / analysis*
  • Bacterial Outer Membrane Proteins / analysis*
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / classification*
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / genetics
  • DNA Primers
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Genetic Heterogeneity
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins*
  • Lyme Disease / epidemiology
  • Lyme Disease / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction*
  • Synovial Fluid / microbiology*


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