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J Clin Microbiol. Jun 1997; 35(6): 1510–1516.
PMCID: PMC229776

An indirect immunofluorescence assay using a cell culture-derived antigen for detection of antibodies to the agent of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis.


An indirect immunofluorescence assay for the detection of human antibodies to the agent of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) was developed and standardized. Antigen was prepared from a human promyelocytic leukemia cell line (HL-60) infected with a tick-derived isolate of the HGE agent (USG3). Suitable antigen presentation and preservation of cellular morphology were obtained when infected cells were applied and cultured on the slide, excess medium was removed, and cells were fixed with acetone. Use of a buffer containing bovine serum albumin and goat serum reduced background fluorescence, and use of an immunoglobulin G (gamma-specific) conjugate reduced nonspecific binding. The assay readily detected specific antibody from HGE patients and did not detect antibody from healthy individuals. No significant reactivity was noted in sera from patients with high titers of antibodies to other rickettsial species. We were able to identify antibodies reactive to USG3 antigen in samples from areas where HGE is endemic that had tested negative to other rickettsial agents. Animal sera reactive against Ehrlichia equi or Ehrlichia phagocytophila bound to the HGE antigen, indicating that the assay may be useful for veterinary use. Comparability between two different laboratories was assessed by using coded human sera exchanged between laboratories. Results from the two laboratories were similar, indicating that the assay can be easily integrated into use for routine testing for HGE. The assay was then compared to an assay using horse neutrophils infected with ehrlichiae. The two assays gave comparable results, indicating that the cell culture-derived antigen can be used for testing samples that have been previously tested with E. equi as an antigen. The new assay offers several advantages over other immunofluorescence methods that use animal-derived antigen and is suitable for use in testing for human antibodies to the HGE agent.

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Selected References

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