Human Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis in Belgium: an underestimated cause of disease

J Infect. 2003 Aug;47(2):129-32. doi: 10.1016/s0163-4453(03)00056-2.


Objectives: Human Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis (HGE) is a recently discovered zoonosis and, in Europe, not always included in laboratory testing when a patient presents with a history of tick bite. The available serology results indicate that HGE should be included in the screening panel when a tick-borne disease is suspected.

Methods: Serological methods were applied; i.e. indirect immunofluorescence and Western Blot analysis. Sixty-five serum samples from 47 patients were analysed, of six patients sequential samples were available.

Results: 33.8% of the submitted samples were found positive in indirect immunofluorescence, Western Blot confirmed 46.1% of these positive samples.

Conclusions: Although the causative agent and the vector for HGE, Ixodes ticks, are present in Belgium, serology for HGE is seldom solicited. Ehrlichiosis is apparently not always considered as a plausible or possible cause for illness, even when the patient presents with a history of tick bite. We present here a, true be it, incomplete picture of the present situation in Belgium, but nevertheless indicating that it is warranted to test patients with a history of tick bite not only for Lyme disease, but also for HGE.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Belgium / epidemiology
  • Blotting, Western
  • Child
  • Ehrlichiosis / epidemiology*
  • Ehrlichiosis / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Granulocytes / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Ixodes / microbiology
  • Lyme Disease / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies