Granulocytic Ehrlichia infection in ixodid ticks and mammals in woodlands and uplands of the U.K

Med Vet Entomol. 1998 Oct;12(4):423-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2915.1998.00133.x.


The prevalence of infection with Ehrlichiae of the Ehrlichia phagocytophila genogroup (the granulocytic Ehrlichiae), in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks of U.K. upland and woodland habitats, was investigated by PCR. The prevalence of infection in the three feeding stages of I. ricinus indicated that granulocytic Ehrlichiae are transmitted transstadially with no, or inefficient, transovarial transmission. The presence of infected ticks in both habitats indicates that endemic cycles of granulocytic Ehrlichia (GE) infection are maintained by both domesticated sheep and by wild reservoirs, and coexist with endemic cycles of Borrelia burgdorferi infection. Moreover, demonstration, for the first time, of GE infection in engorged Ixodes trianguliceps ticks and blood collected from wild rodents, suggests that European wild rodents are competent reservoirs. GE infection prevalence in nymphal and adult I. ricinus was significantly greater in uplands than woodlands, which is consistent with ticks of all three feeding stages feeding on reservoir-competent sheep in uplands. In one woodland studied, pheasants are important hosts for nymphal I. ricinus but are incompetent or inefficient reservoirs, so reducing GE infection prevalence in I. ricinus ticks in this habitat. 16S rRNA sequences of GE from ticks of these U.K. habitats, showed a high degree of homology with those of granulocytic Ehrlichiae isolated from humans, but also showed some evidence of genetic diversity of granulocytic ehrlichiae in the U.K. The implications of these findings, for the taxonomy of granulocytic ehrlichiae and the potential for human infections to occur in the U.K., is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arvicolinae
  • Deer
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Ehrlichia / genetics*
  • Ehrlichiosis / epidemiology
  • Ehrlichiosis / microbiology
  • Ehrlichiosis / veterinary*
  • Humans
  • Ixodes / microbiology*
  • Mammals
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prevalence
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sequence Analysis
  • United Kingdom