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Background: An association between Borrelia burgdorferi and cutaneous B-cell lymphoma (CBCL) has been made in several European countries. The evidence in favor of such an association has recently been based on more definitive tests for the pathogenetic role of B. burgdorferi in CBCL, including positive cultures or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of borrelial DNA from lesional skin. However, there is only one report of B. burgdorferi in four North American cases of B-cell lymphoma.

Methods: We retrieved 38 cases of primary and secondary CBCL from different geographic regions of the United States. Two separate techniques were used to detect borrelial DNA by PCR, a nested PCR method to amplify a B. burgdorferi-specific gene as well as a borrelial chromosomal Ly-1 clone amplification method. Southern blot hybridization was used for confirmation of the PCR results.

Results: No B. burgdorferi-specific DNA was detected in any of the 38 CBCL cases, whereas detectable PCR products were obtained with our positive controls.

Conclusions: Our findings, in light of previous studies, suggest that B. burgdorferi plays a minimal role in the development or pathogenesis of CBCL in the United States. The findings also suggest that the geographic variations in the clinical manifestations of B. burgdorferi are indeed real and may be secondary to the genetic and phenotypic differences between B. burgdorferi strains present in Europe and North America.