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The antibody response in Lyme disease.

ABSTRACT We determined the antibody response against the Ixodes dammini spirochete in Lyme disease patients by indirect immunofluorescence and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The specific IgM response became maximal three to six weeks after disease onset, and then declined, although titers sometimes remained elevated during later disease. Specific IgM levels correlated directly with total serum IgM. The specific IgG response, often delayed initially, was nearly always present during neuritis and arthritis, and frequently remained elevated after months of remission. Although results obtained by indirect immunofluorescence and the ELISA were similar, the ELISA was more sensitive and specific. Cross-reactive antibodies from patients with other spirochetal infections were blocked by absorption of sera with Borrelia hermsii, but titers of Lyme disease sera were also decreased. To further characterize the specificity of the humoral immune response against the I. dammini spirochete, 35S-methionine-labeled spirochetal antigens were identified by immunoprecipitation with sera from Lyme arthritis patients. These polypeptides had molecular weights of 62, 60, 47, 37, 22, 18, and 15 kDa, and were not recognized by control sera. We conclude that the ELISA, without absorption, is the best method to assay the humoral immune response in Lyme disease, and we have identified methionine-containing spirochetal polypeptides that may be important in Lyme arthritis.

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