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J Clin Microbiol. Dec 1991; 29(12): 2741–2745.
PMCID: PMC270425

Isolation and characterization of an Ehrlichia sp. from a patient diagnosed with human ehrlichiosis.


A new disease was recognized in the United States in 1986. The etiologic agent, although not previously isolated from a human, appeared to be serologically related to Ehrlichia canis, a canine leukotropic rickettsia. We obtained blood specimens from 27 febrile patients with a history of tick exposure. Leukocytes from 24 patients not treated with tetracycline were placed onto a monolayer of DH82 cells. We performed indirect immunofluorescence on sera from all 27 febrile patients as well as sera from 12 patients with previously diagnosed ehrlichiosis. Intractoplasmic inclusions were first observed in culture 35 days after the addition of infected blood from one patient. Partial sequencing of the rRNAs from the human isolate and E. canis indicated that they are 98.7% related. Positive indirect immunofluorescence reactions to the human isolate were obtained for all 12 previously diagnosed patients and for 33% of the 27 febrile patients. Two patients were seropositive for the human isolate but not for E. canis. No sera were positive for E. canis and negative for the human isolate. We report the isolation of a previously unrecognized Ehrlichia sp. that appears to be the etiologic agent of human ehrlichiosis. Serologic data (range of antibody titers, 256 to 32,768) in combination with rRNA sequencing indicated that the newly isolated Ehrlichia sp. is similar, but not identical, to E. canis.

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