Incidence and prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi antibodies in male professional football players.

TitelIncidence and prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi antibodies in male professional football players.
MedientypJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AutorenBreitbart P, Meister S, Meyer T, Gärtner B
JournalClin J Sport Med
Date Published07/2021

Objective: Infections with Borrelia burgdorferi can cause Lyme disease with multiorganic involvement such as (myo)carditis or joint manifestations. Musculoskeletal complaints possibly mimicking some of these symptoms are common among elite athletes. This study aimed to determine seroprevalence and incidence of B. burgdorferi antibodies in professional football players.

Design: Prospective observational study.

Setting: Healthy professional football players.

Participants: Five hundred thirty-five men in the first and second German league.

Interventions: Two screening assays were used to examine immunoglobulin M (IgM) and immunoglobulin G (IgG) against B. burgdorferi: an enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and a chemiluminescence assay (CLIA). In case of a positive or equivocal result, an immunoblot including in vivo antigens was performed.

Main outcome measures: Course of IgM and IgG against B. burgdorferi in overall 1529 blood samples.

Results: A total of 96.4% of all results were concordant between EIA and CLIA. Considering only samples with identical results in both assays, prevalence was 1.6%. A positive IgM was detected in 2.3%. No player showed any symptoms of Lyme disease. A seroconversion to IgG was not found. Three players developed a positive IgM corresponding to an incidence of 1032/100 000 person-years. Depending on the assay, 49% to 75% of positive or equivocal screening results could not be confirmed by immunoblot.

Conclusions: Seroprevalence and incidence of B. burgdorferi among healthy male professional football players are low. Therefore, infections with B. burgdorferi have to be regarded a rare differential diagnosis in professional football in Central Europe. The low confirmation rate of positive screening assays points to an unspecific immune activation.

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