The polymerase chain reaction for the detection of borrelia burgdorferi in human body fluids

Michael R. Liebling, Midori Jane Nishio, Annette Rodriguez, Leonard H. Sigal, Tian Jin, James S. Louie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Objective. To analyze clinical fluids for the presence of Borrelia burgdorferi DNA using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Methods. We utilized a modified, nested PCR to detect the presence of Borrelia DNA in 99 samples of serum, urine, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), or synovial fluid obtained from 44 patients with various stages of Lyme disease and 47 control subjects. Primer specificity was corroborated by examining 2 DNA data banks, testing against DNA from other organisms, and confirming results with a second set of nested primers. Results. Nested PCR was capable of detecting DNA from fewer than 10 organisms in 1 ml of fluid. The specificity of this technique was 96.4%, with a sensitivity of 76.7%. Although the specificity was uniformly high, the sensitivity was dependent upon the body fluid being tested: CSF 100%, urine 100%, synovial fluid 80%, and serum 59%. The rate of false‐positive results was 3.6%. Conclusion. These data demonstrate the potential utility of PCR in confirming the clinical diagnosis of Lyme disease as well as providing insight into the pathogenesis of various stages of this disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)665-675
Number of pages11
JournalArthritis & Rheumatism
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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