Value of clinical symptoms, intrathecal specific antibody production and PCR in CSF in the diagnosis of childhood Lyme neuroborreliosis.
Due to the wide spectrum of clinical manifestations of Lyme neuroborreliosis laboratory investigations are necessary to confirm the diagnosis. Serum and CSF antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) as well as mononuclear CSF pleocytosis are usually present in patients with suspected neuroborreliosis. In some cases, however, the results may be conflicting, causing difficulty for the clinician in making a therapeutic decision. We therefore analysed the value of clinical symptoms, the presence of intrathecal antibody production against Bb with a modified IFA and a capture ELISA test, and the presence of Bb in the CSF with PCR testing in eleven children with suspected neuroborreliosis. In six of eight children with probable neuroborreliosis we could demonstrate intrathecal antibody production against Bb. In only one of these cases could Bb be detected in the CSF with the PCR assay. In two children the clinical manifestations consisting of erythema chronicum migrans and facial palsy, the presence of mononuclear CSF pleocytosis, and the presence of Bb specific antibodies in serum supported the diagnosis of neuroborreliosis, despite the absence of intrathecal specific antibodies. Three additional children with possible neuroborreliosis based on the occurrence of nonspecific clinical symptoms along with high serum antibody titers to Bb were included in the study. Intrathecal antibodies against Bb could not be detected and the PCR result was negative; therefore the diagnosis of neuroborreliosis was not substantiated in these three patients. We conclude that in addition to clinical symptoms, serological evidence and CSF findings suggestive of neuroborreliosis, the demonstration of intrathecal specific antibody synthesis against Bb may be helpful in establishing a definitive diagnosis of neuroborreliosis. The absence of CSF antibodies, however, does not necessarily indicate a lack of CNS involvement, especially if the examination is performed early in the course of disease. PCR testing in CSF is not suitable for routine application in the diagnosis of Lyme neuroborreliosis.
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