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Immunologic Reactivity Against Borrelia burgdorferi in Patients With Motor Neuron Disease

John J. Halperin, MD; Gary P. Kaplan, MD, PhD; Shari Brazinsky, MD; T. F. Tsai, MD; Teresa Cheng; Audrey Ironside, RPT; Priscilla Wu, MA; Joel Delfiner, MD; Marc Golightly, PhD; Robert H. Brown, MD; Raymond J. Dattwyler, MD; Benjamin J. Luft, MD
Arch Neurol. 1990;47(5):586-594. doi:10.1001/archneur.1990.00530050110021.
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• Of 19 unselected patients with the diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) living in Suffolk County, New York (an area of high Lyme disease prevalence), 9 had serologic evidence of exposure to Borrelia burgdorferi; 4 of 38 matched controls were seropositive. Eight of 9 sero-positive patients were male (8 of 12 male patients vs 2 of 24 controls). Rates of seropositivity were lower among patients with ALS from nonendemic areas. All patients had typical ALS; none had typical Lyme disease. Cerebrospinal fluid was examined in 24 ALS patients—3 (all with severe bulbar involvement) appeared to have intrathecal synthesis of anti-B burgdorferi antibody. Following therapy with antibiotics, 3 patients with predominantly lower motor neuron abnormalities appeared to improve, 3 with severe bulbar dysfunction deteriorated rapidly, and all others appeared unaffected. There appears to be a statistically significant association between ALS and immunoreactivity to B burgdorferi, at least among men living in hyperendemic areas.

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