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Current antibody testing for human granulocytic ehrlichiosis relies predominantly on indirect fluorescent-antibody assays and immunoblot analysis. Shortcomings of these techniques include high cost and variability of test results associated with the use of different strains of antigens derived from either horses or cultured HL-60 cells. We used recombinant protein HGE-44, expressed and purified as a maltose-binding protein (MBP) fusion peptide, as an antigen in a polyvalent enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Fifty-five normal serum samples from healthy humans served as a reference to establish cutoff levels. Thirty-three of 38 HGE patient serum samples (87%), previously confirmed by positive whole-cell immunoblotting, reacted positively in the recombinant ELISA. In specificity analyses, serum samples from patients with
Lyme disease, syphilis, rheumatoid arthritis, and human monocytic ehrlichiosis (HME) did not react with HGE-44-MBP antigen, except for one sample (specificity, 98%). We conclude that recombinant HGE-44 antigen is a suitable antigen in an ELISA for the laboratory diagnosis and epidemiological study of HGE.