Archived serum samples, from 95 eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus) captured in New York, New York, USA and Millbrook, New York, USA, during 1985–86, were analyzed in solid-phase enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) for total and class-specific immunoglobulin (Ig) M antibodies to whole-cell or recombinant antigens of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto. Using a polyvalent conjugate, rabbit sera contained antibodies to whole-cell and recombinant antigens (protein [p]35, p37, or VlsE) during different seasons, but there was no reactivity to outer surface protein (Osp)A or OspB. Seventy-six of the 102 sera (75%) analyzed were reactive with one or more of the antigens; 61 of the positive samples (80%) reacted to whole-cell antigens, followed by results for the p35 (58%, 44/76), VlsE (43%, 33/76), and p37 (29%, 22/76) antigens. Fifty-eight sera (76%) contained antibodies to the VlsE or p35 antigens with or without reactivity to whole-cell antigens. High antibody titers (≥1:2,560) recorded for 52 sera indicate robust antibody production. In analyses for IgM antibodies in an ELISA containing whole-cell antigens, there were 30 positive sera; titers ranged from 1:160 to 1:640. There was minimal cross-reactivity when rabbit antisera to Treponema pallidum or four serovars of Leptospira interrogans were screened against B. burgdorferi antigens. Based on more-specific results, VlsE and p35 antigens appear to be useful markers for detecting possible B. burgdorferi infections.
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