Incidence of Lyme Borreliosis in the Würzburg Region of Germany

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Abstract

 To assess the incidence of Lyme borreliosis in Central Europe, a 12-month, prospective, population-based surveillance study of Lyme borreliosis was conducted in the Würzburg region of central Germany, following an aggressive awareness campaign. The diagnosis of Lyme borreliosis required the presence of (i) erythema migrans (diameter ≥5 cm); (ii) lymphocytoma; or (iii) another specific manifestation including Lyme arthritis, neuroborreliosis, carditis or acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans in conjunction with serological confirmation. A total of 313 cases of Lyme borreliosis was diagnosed, giving an incidence of 111 cases/100 000 inhabitants, the highest rates occurring in children and elderly adults living in wooded as opposed to agricultural areas. The incidence in city dwellers and inhabitants of rural areas was not significantly different. Erythema migrans was the only manifestation in 279 (89%) patients. Of the 34 patients with manifestations other than erythema migrans alone, 15 had arthritis, nine neuroborreliosis, six lymphocytoma, four acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans and one carditis. Children were more likely than adults to have manifestations other than erythema migrans alone. Lyme borreliosis was very common in central Germany, and one of the most frequent bacterial infections. The observation of more cases of arthritis than neuroborreliosis was similar to that in the USA. These results may be representative for many parts of central Europe and suggest the need for development of a vaccine against borreliosis caused by European strains of Borrelia species.