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Clinical, diagnostic and immunological characteristics of patients with possible neuroborreliosis without intrathecal Ig-synthesis against Borrelia antigen in the cerebrospinal fluid

Magnus Vrethem, Mona Widhe, Jan Ernerudh, Ulf Garpmo, Pia Forsberg
  • Mona Widhe
    Affiliation not present
  • Jan Ernerudh
    Affiliation not present
  • Ulf Garpmo
    Affiliation not present
  • Pia Forsberg
    Affiliation not present


The diagnosis of neuroborreliosis is not always straightforward. Intrathecal immunoglobulin (Ig) synthesis against Borrelia antigen may not be detected, at least early in the disease course. Also other neurological and infectious diagnoses have to be considered. We have studied patients with clinical possible neuroborreliosis without intrathecal Ig synthesis against Borrelia antigen in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) (n=17). Diagnosis was based on typical clinical history and at least one of the following findings; mononuclear leucocytosis in the CSF (n=4); typical erythema migrans >5 cm in diameter in relation to debut of symptoms (n=8); prompt clinical response to antibiotic teratment (n=14). Also other possible diagnoses had to be excluded. Seventeen patients first investigated because of suspected neuroborreliosis but later confirmed with other diagnoses were used as controls. All patients had a lumbar puncture. Borrelia specific IFN-γ and IL-4 secretion was investigated in peripheral blood (PBL) and CSF with an ELISPOT assay. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to reveal any Borrelia antigen in the CSF. Six of 17 patients with possible neuroborreliosis showed high IFN-g secretion in peripheral blood, otherwise we found no statistically significant differences between the groups. PCR did not reveal any Borrelia antigen in CSF. The diagnosis and treatment of possible but not confirmed neuroborreliosis is a clinical challenge. The clinical response to treatment may be the best option in these cases.


Borrelia; neuroborreliosis; neurological symptoms; cerebrospinal fluid; cytokines; chronic.

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Submitted: 2011-02-12 15:48:03
Published: 2011-04-08 13:21:03
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Copyright (c) 2011 Magnus Vrethem, Mona Widhe, Jan Ernerudh, Ulf Garpmo, Pia Forsberg

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