Chronic Lyme Arthritis: Clinical and Immunogenetic Differentiation from Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Ten patients with Lyme arthritis have developed chronic involvement of one or both knees. Lyme arthritis was diagnosed by onset with erythema chronicum migrans (six patients); residence in Lyme, Connecticut (eight); seasonal onset in summer and early fall (nine); early periods of short recurrent attacks (nine); absence of rheumatoid factor (nine); and absence of symmetrical polyarthritis, morning stiffness, subcutaneous nodules, or antinuclear antibodies (in all). Five patients had synovectomies; pannus formation and underlying cartilage erosion were present in all. Seven of the 10 patients had the same B-cell alloantigen, DRw2 (frequency in normal control subjects, 22%[ P< 0.005]), but did not have an increased frequency of the alloantigens associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic Lyme arthritis, the result of an apparent tick-transmitted infection, resembles rheumatoid arthritis pathologically but generally differs from it in both prearticular and immunogenetic characteristics.

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