Detection of IFN-γ Secretion by T Cells Collected Before and After Successful Treatment of Early Lyme Disease

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Background. Current serodiagnostics for Lyme disease lack sensitivity during early disease, and cannot determine treatment response. We evaluated an assay based on QuantiFERON technology utilizing peptide antigens derived from Borrelia burgdorferi to stimulate interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) release as an alternative to serodiagnosis for the laboratory detection of Lyme disease.

Methods. Blood was obtained from patients with erythema migrans before (n = 29) and 2 months after (n = 27) antibiotic therapy. IFN-γ release was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) following overnight stimulation of whole blood with the peptide antigens, and compared to the results of standard serological assays (C6, ELISA, and Western blot).

Results. IFN-γ release was observed in pretreatment blood of 20 of 29 (69%) patients with Lyme disease. Following antibiotic treatment, IFN-γ was significantly reduced (P = .0002), and was detectable in only 4 of 20 (20%) initially positive patients. By contrast, anti-C6 antibodies were detected in pretreatment sera from 17 of 29 (59%) subjects, whereas only 5 of 29 (17%) patients had positive Western blot seroreactivity. Antibody responses persisted and expanded following treatment.

Conclusions. Our findings suggest that measurement of IFN-γ after incubating blood with Borrelia antigens could be useful in the laboratory diagnosis of early Lyme disease. Also, after antibiotic treatment, this response appears to be short lived.

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