Thirty-five strains of the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (B. burgdorferi s. l.) were isolated from the blacklegged tick vector Ixodes scapularis in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Rhode Island. They were characterized by PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of rrf (5S)-rrl (23S) intergenic spacer amplicons. PCR-RFLP analysis indicated that the strains represented at least 3 genospecies (including a possible novel genospecies) and 4 different restriction patterns. Thirty strains belonged to the genospecies B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (B. burgdorferi s. s.), 4 southern strains were identified as B. bissettii, and strain SCCH-5 from South Carolina exhibited MseI and DraI restriction patterns different from those of previously reported genospecies. Complete sequences of rrf-rrl intergenic spacers from 14 southeastern and northeastern strains were determined and the phylogenetic relationships of these strains were compared. The 14 strains clustered into 3 separate lineages on the basis of sequence analysis. These results were confirmed by phylogenetic analysis based on 16S rDNA sequence analysis.
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