Molecular methods for diagnosing Lyme neuroborreliosis (LNB) have shown suboptimal diagnostic sensitivities. The objective of this study was to improve the clinical sensitivity of PCR detection of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato spirochetes by inoculating cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from patients suspected of LNB directly into culture medium at the time of lumbar puncture, with this pursuing enrichment of Borrelia spirochetes before PCR analysis. Adult patients with symptoms suggestive of LNB were prospectively enrolled at two hospitals in the Region of Southern Denmark. The CSF-culture samples were incubated for at least eight weeks. During this period, culture sample aliquots were analysed for the presence of Borrelia DNA by separate PCR protocols in two independent clinical laboratories. The included patients were diagnosed with definite (n=12) or possible (n=2) LNB, and non-LNB (n=171) based on clinical and paraclinical findings. Patients in the LNB and the non-LNB group had a median duration from symptom onset to lumbar puncture of 40 days (IQR [23–90] days) and 120 days (IQR [32–365] days), respectively. Pre-enrichment growth of Borrelia spirochetes was accomplished from three patients (21 %) in the LNB group. The positive culture samples were confirmed by both the digital droplet PCR and the real-time PCR methods employed. All CSF samples were PCR negative in the non-LNB group. The results of this study do not support the use of Borrelia-specific PCR as a general routine diagnostic tool in adults. Still, they suggest it may prove of additional value in selected patients with a limited time from symptom onset to sample collection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102138
JournalTicks and Tick-borne Diseases
Issue number3
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

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  • Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Culture
  • Droplet digital PCR
  • Lyme neuroborreliosis
  • Real-time PCR


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