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Infections of granulocytic ehrlichiae and Borrelia burgdorferi in white-tailed deer in Connecticut.

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By Magnarelli LA, Ijdo JW, Stafford KC 3rd, Fikrig E • • April 1, 1999


Serum or whole blood samples, obtained from 141 white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Connecticut (USA) during 1980, 1991, and 1996, were analyzed to detect past or current infections of Ehrlichia phagocytophila genogroup organisms and Borrelia burgdorferi. When the BDS or NCH-1 strains of granulocytic ehrlichiae were used separately in indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA) staining methods, antibody positivity rates varied from 25 to 64% in 1991 and 1996, respectively. All 50 sera tested from 1980 collections were negative. Although percentages of sera with B. burgdorferi antibodies, as detected by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, also differed (23 to 53%), there were coexisting antibodies to both bacteria in 20 (49%) of 41 sera. In tests on specificity, 19 deer sera with ehrlichial antibodies also were tested by IFA staining procedures for Anaplasma marginale antibodies; one serum with a titer of 1:5,120 to ehrlichial antigen reacted to A. marginale antigen at a serum dilution of 1:320. In parallel analyses of 69 sera, results of Western blot analyses for ehrlichial infections in deer were concordant (72% agreement) with those of IFA staining methods containing ehrlichial antigen. All positive immunoblots showed bands to peptides of the NCH-1 strain of the human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) agent having molecular masses of about 44, 105, or 110 kDa. In polymerase chain reaction (PCR) studies of blood samples from 63 deer, 11 (18%) specimens were positive for 16S ribosomal DNA of an Ehrlichia phagocytophila genogroup organism, whereas 23 (37%) samples were positive for the DNA of the 44 kDa gene of the HGE agent. White-tailed deer are exposed to different tick-borne bacteria in areas where Ixodes scapularis ticks are abundant and may, in some instances, have had concurrent infections.

J Wildl Dis. 1999 Apr;35(2):266-74. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't; Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.; Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

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