Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Published in JOURNAL OF CLINICAL MICROBIOLOGY, 0095-1137/98 Mar. 1998, p. 695–700


Rodent (Muridae: Sigmodontinae) blood and sera collected from 14 states were tested for seroreactivity to a cultured isolate of the human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) agent by using an indirect immunofluorescence assay. Of the 1,240 samples tested, 136 (11%) were found to be reactive at titers of ≥32. Rodents with HGE agent-specific antibodies were found in New York (23% of 491 samples; geometric mean endpoint titer GMT = 441), Connecticut (11% of 100 samples; GMT = 481), California (9% of 32 samples; GMT = 323), Colorado (2% of 212 samples; GMT = 256), Florida (7% of 27 samples; GMT = 362), Maryland (7% of 15 samples; titer = 64), New Jersey (4% of 76 samples; titer = 256), and Wisconsin (13% of 8 samples; titer = 128). Samples from Georgia (n = 16), Illinois (n = 27), Nevada (n = 27), North Carolina (n = 52), Ohio (n 5 57), and Utah (n = 100) were not reactive. The earliest seroreactive sample was from a Peromyscus leucopus mouse collected in June 1986 in Connecticut, and the majority of the seroreactive samples (68%) were from this species. Samples from other Peromyscus species (P. boylii, P. maniculatus, and P. gossypinus) were also found to be reactive, with a GMT for the genus of 410. Several species of Neotoma woodrats (N. fuscipes, N. lepida, N. albigula, and N. mexicana) from California and Colorado had antibodies that reacted with the HGE agent (genus GMT = 194), suggesting that enzootic cycles of Ehrlichia spp. exist outside of the areas of confirmed human disease. Attempts to amplify and detect ehrlichial DNA from the limited tissues available (n = 40 animals) were unsuccessful. Further studies are needed to determine the identity of the organisms inducing antibody production in these rodent species and to elucidate the epidemiology and public health importance of these agents.