Lyme borreliosis, a spirochetal infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, may become clinically active after a period of latency in the host. Active cases of Lyme disease may show clinical relapse following antibiotic therapy. The latency and relapse phenomena suggest that the Lyme disease spirochete is capable of survival in the host for prolonged periods of time. We studied 63 patients with erythema migrans, the pathognomonic cutaneous lesion of Lyme borreliosis, and examined in vitro cultures of biopsies from the active edge of the erythematous patch. Sixteen biopsies yielded spirochetes after prolonged incubations of up to 10.5 months, suggesting that Borrelia burgdorferi may be very slow to divide in certain situations. Some patients with Lyme borreliosis may require more than the currently recommended two to three week course of antibiotic therapy to eradicate strains of the spirochete which grow slowly.
Acta Trop. 1990 Dec;48(2):89-94