The diagnostic performance of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) using purified Borrelia burgdorferi flagella as test antigen was compared with that of a B. burgdorferi sonic extract ELISA. We tested sera from 200 healthy controls, 107 patients with erythema migrans (EM), 50 patients with acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans (ACA), and 98 patients with various dermatological disorders without clinical evidence of active Lyme borreliosis. The flagellum ELISA was significantly more sensitive than the sonic extract ELISA. With sera from patients with EM, the diagnostic sensitivity for immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody detection increased from 11.2 to 35.5% (P less than 0.001) and for IgM antibody detection it increased from 16.6 to 44.8% (P less than 0.001). In the flagellum ELISA, the number of positive tests increased significantly (P less than 0.005) when the duration of EM exceeded 1 month, but still only about 50% of patients with longstanding (1 to 12 months) untreated EM were IgG seropositive. Concomitant general symptoms did not affect the antibody level, whereas patients with multiple erythema were more frequently seropositive. All sera from patients with EM which were positive in the sonic extract ELISA were also positive in the flagellum ELISA. Not only did the overall number of positive tests increase, but the flagellum ELISA yielded a significantly better quantitative discrimination between seropositive patients and controls (P less than 0.002). IgG antibodies to the B. burgdorferi flagellum were found in all sera from patients with ACA, indicating persistence of an antiflagellum immune response in late stages of Lyme borreliosis. IgM reactivity in sera from patients with ACA was shown to be unspecific and the result IgM rheumatoid factor. A rheumatoid factor was detected in sera from 32% of patients with ACA, compared with 7.5% of patients with EM. The improved diagnostic performance, the ease of standardization of the flagellum antigen, and the lack of strain variation make the B. burgdorferi flagellum a needed reference antigen for growing routine serology in Lyme borreliosis.
Journal of Clinical Microbiology
J Clin Microbiol. 1989 Mar;27(3):545-5