Hemocytic rickettsia-like organisms in ticks: serologic reactivity with antisera to Ehrlichiae and detection of DNA of agent of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis by PCR

J Clin Microbiol. 1995 Oct;33(10):2710-4. doi: 10.1128/jcm.33.10.2710-2714.1995.


Ixodid ticks were collected from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and British Columbia (Canada) during 1991 to 1994 to determine the prevalence of infection with hemocytic (blood cell), rickettsia-like organisms. Hemolymph obtained from these ticks was analyzed by direct and indirect fluorescent antibody (FA) staining methods with dog, horse, or human sera containing antibodies to Ehrlichia canis, Ehrlichia equi, or Rickettsia rickettsii. Of the 693 nymphal and adult Amblyomma americanum, Dermacentor variabilis, Ixodes scapularis, and Ixodes pacificus ticks tested with dog anti-E. canis antiserum, 209 (32.5%) contained hemocytic bacteria. The prevalence of infected ticks varied greatly with species and locale. In parallel tests of duplicate hemolymph preparations from adult I. scapularis ticks, the hemocytic organisms reacted positively with E. canis and/or E. equi antisera, including sera from persons who had granulocytic ehrlichiosis. In separate PCR analyses, DNA of the agent of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis was detected in 59 (50.0%) of 118 adult and in 1 of 2 nymphal I. scapularis ticks tested from Connecticut. There was no evidence of Ehrlichia chaffeensis DNA in these ticks. In indirect FA tests of hemolymph for spotted fever group rickettsiae, the overall prevalence of infection was less than 4%. Specificity tests of antigens and antisera used in these studies revealed no cross-reactivity between E. canis and E. equi or between any of the ehrlichial reagents and those of R. rickettsii. The geographic distribution of hemocytic microorganisms with shared antigens to Ehrlichia species or spotted fever group rickettsiae is widespread.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anaplasmataceae / genetics
  • Anaplasmataceae / immunology
  • Anaplasmataceae / isolation & purification
  • Animals
  • Canada
  • Cross Reactions
  • DNA, Bacterial / isolation & purification*
  • Dogs
  • Ehrlichiosis / blood
  • Ehrlichiosis / immunology
  • Ehrlichiosis / microbiology
  • Female
  • Granulocytes / microbiology
  • Hemocytes / microbiology*
  • Hemocytes / pathology
  • Horses
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rickettsiaceae / genetics
  • Rickettsiaceae / immunology
  • Rickettsiaceae / isolation & purification*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Species Specificity
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Ticks / microbiology*
  • United States


  • DNA, Bacterial