Diagnosis of human ehrlichiosis with the indirect fluorescent antibody test: kinetics and specificity

J Infect Dis. 1990 Jul;162(1):91-5. doi: 10.1093/infdis/162.1.91.


Human ehrlichiosis, an acute febrile illness caused by Ehrlichia canis or a closely related rickettsial organism, was first identified in 1986. From 1986 through 1988, sera from 85 patients demonstrated a fourfold rise or fall in antibody titer to E. canis. Seven (22%) of 32 patients initially tested during the first week after onset of illness. 17 (68%) of 25 tested during the second week, and all 18 tested during the third week had titers that exceeded the minimum positive titer of greater than or equal to 80. Of the 85 confirmed ehrlichiosis patients, 31 (36.5%) also had indirect fluorescent antibody titers considered diagnostic of infection with Rickettsia rickettsii, Rickettsia typhi, or Coxiella burnetti, but in most these diagnoses were not supported by epidemiologic, clinical, or serologic evidence. These results emphasize that patients suspected of having a tick-borne infection should be tested for antibodies to E. canis as well as for those to other rickettsiae.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Bacterial / analysis*
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / biosynthesis
  • Ehrlichia / immunology*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Rickettsiaceae / immunology*
  • Rickettsiaceae Infections / diagnosis*


  • Antibodies, Bacterial