Lyme borreliosis: ten years after discovery of the etiologic agent, Borrelia burgdorferi

Published Date
Infection. 1991 Jul-Aug;19(4):257-62
Burgdorfer W

Since the recovery of its causative agent, Borrelia burgdorferi, in 1981, Lyme borreliosis has become the most prevalent tick-borne disease in the United States as well as in Europe. Its steadily increasing clinical spectrum now includes erythema migrans, acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans, lymphadenosis beniga cutis, arthritis, myocarditis, progressive meningoencephalitis, myositis, and various ocular and skin disorders. The true incidence of Lyme borreliosis in the world is unknown. In the United States, it has increased from 2,000 cases in 1987, to more than 8,000 in 1989. It occurs now in regions where the tick vectors, Ixodes dammini and Ixodes pacificus, are absent and where other species of ticks may be responsible for maintaining and distributing the spirochete. In Europe, Lyme borreliosis has been reported from 19 countries; its occurrence coincides with the distribution of the vector tick, Ixodes ricinus and possibly Ixodes hexagonus. Specific and dependable serological tests are still not available, but development of probes for specific antigens and the polymerase chain reaction appear promising in detecting ongoing infections and in identifying B. burgdorferi in ticks, animal, and human hosts. Brief reference is made to advances in the preparation of whole cell and genetically engineered vaccines.