A study was conducted in northern California to estimate the prevalence and distribution in ixodid ticks of the rickettsial agents of human monocytic (HME) and human granulocytic (HGE) ehrlichioses. More than 650 ixodid ticks were collected from 17 sites in six California counties over a 15-month period. Ehrlichia chaffeensis, the causative agent of HME, was detected by a nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in Ixodes pacificus (minimum infection rate [MIR] = 13.3%) and Dermacentor variabilis (infection rate=20.0%) from a municipal park in Santa Cruz County. The HGE agent was detected by nested PCR in I. pacificus adults from a heavily used recreational area in Alameda County (MIR = 4.7%) and a semirural community in Sonoma County (MIR = 6.7%). Evidence of infection with Ehrlichia spp. was not detected in D. occidentalis adults or I. pacificus nymphs. This study represents the first detection of E. chaffeensis in California ticks and the first report of infection in Ixodes spp. The competency of I. pacificus to be coinfected with and to transmit multiple
disease agents, including those of human ehrlichioses and
Lyme disease, has yet to be determined.