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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • Lyme disease;
  • Borrelia burgdorferi;
  • tick-borne diseases;
  • serological tests;
  • outer surface protein C (OspC);
  • OspF

Summary

Reasons for performing study

Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by infected ticks (Ixodes spp.). Reports on Lyme disease in horses have increased in recent years. Nevertheless, the diagnosis of Lyme disease in horses is still challenging owing to its vague clinical presentation and the limitations of diagnostic tests.

Objectives

This study used a new serological Lyme multiplex assay to examine antibody responses to 3 antigens of B. burgdorferi, outer surface protein (Osp) C, OspF and C6, and to verify their use as markers for early and late infection stages in horses.

Methods

Multiplex analysis of antibodies to OspC, OspF and C6 in equine patient sera (n = 191) was performed. A subset of the sera (n = 90) was also tested using a commercial C6-based Lyme test.

Results

Antibodies to OspF and C6 highly correlate as reliable markers of infection with B. burgdorferi in horses. Antibodies to OspC, which have been confirmed as early infection markers in man and dogs, were only detected in some patient sera, suggesting that OspC antibodies are indicators of early infection in horses. Commercial C6 testing identified most infected horses but also resulted in false positive and false negative interpretations.

Conclusions

Serological multiplex testing is a rapid and quantitative diagnostic method to confirm infection with B. burgdorferi and to identify the stage of infection. In horses with risk of exposure and clinical signs, multiplex testing supports the diagnosis of Lyme disease.

Potential relevance

Antimicrobial treatment of B. burgdorferi is time sensitive. Treatment success decreases with time of persistent infection, while the risk of developing chronic disease increases. The ability to identify early infection with B. burgdorferi provides practitioners and clinicians with a tool to improve the diagnosis of equine Lyme disease and make treatment decisions.