Clinical Rheumatology

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 585–589 | Cite as

Characteristics of seroconversion and implications for diagnosis of post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome: acute and convalescent serology among a prospective cohort of early Lyme disease patients

  • Alison W. RebmanEmail author
  • Lauren A. Crowder
  • Allison Kirkpatrick
  • John N. Aucott
Brief Report


Two-tier serology is often used to confirm a diagnosis of Lyme disease. One hundred and four patients with physician diagnosed erythema migrans rashes had blood samples taken before and after 3 weeks of doxycycline treatment for early Lyme disease. Acute and convalescent serologies for Borrelia burgdorferi were interpreted according to the 2-tier antibody testing criteria proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Serostatus was compared across several clinical and demographic variables both pre- and post-treatment. Forty-one patients (39.4 %) were seronegative both before and after treatment. The majority of seropositive individuals on both acute and convalescent serology had a positive IgM western blot and a negative IgG western blot. IgG seroconversion on western blot was infrequent. Among the baseline variables included in the analysis, disseminated lesions (p < 0.0001), a longer duration of illness (p < 0.0001), and a higher number of reported symptoms (p = 0.004) were highly significantly associated with positive final serostatus, while male sex (p = 0.05) was borderline significant. This variability, and the lack of seroconversion in a subset of patients, highlights the limitations of using serology alone in identifying early Lyme disease. Furthermore, these findings underline the difficulty for rheumatologists in identifying a prior exposure to Lyme disease in caring for patients with medically unexplained symptoms or fibromyalgia-like syndromes.


Borrelia burgdorferi Lyme disease Seroconversion 



This work was supported by the Lyme Disease Research Foundation. The authors would like to thank Eric Weinstein for assistance with the manuscript and figures.




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Copyright information

© Clinical Rheumatology 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison W. Rebman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lauren A. Crowder
    • 1
  • Allison Kirkpatrick
    • 1
  • John N. Aucott
    • 2
  1. 1.Lyme Disease Research FoundationLuthervilleUSA
  2. 2.Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of MedicineJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineLuthervilleUSA

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