Homology in the 16S rDNAs shows that the agent of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) is closely related to the veterinary pathogens Erlichia equi and Erlichia phagocytophila. After HGE, patients develop antibodies reactive with E. equi and E. phagocytophila; thus, we hypothesized that these species are closely related and share significant antigenicity. Antisera from humans, horses, dogs, and cattle were tested by indirect fluorescent-antibody assay (IFA) for antibodies reactive with E. equi and other ehrlichiae and tested by immunoblot to identify the specific reactions with E. equi. All convalescent-phase sera from human patients with HGE and from animals infected or immunized with E. equi or E. phagocytophila had antibodies reactive with E. equi by IFA; no reactions with Ehrlichia chaffeensis occurred with these sera, and only one horse naturally infected with E. equi had a serologic reaction against Ehrlichia sennetsu. Human and animal sera obtained after infection or immunization with other Ehrlichia, Rickettsia, and Bartonella species did not react with E. equi by IFA. E. equi immunoblots revealed as many as 19 bands with equine anti-E. equi serum. All HGE agent, E. equi, and E. phagocytophila antisera tested reacted with a 44-kDa antigen of E. equi, while other anti-Ehrlichia spp. sera reacted with this antigen rarely or not at all. HGE agent, E. equi, and E. phagocytophila antisera but not other sera also reacted occasionally with 25-, 42-, and 100-kDa antigens. Most sera reacted with antigens between approximately 56 and 75 kDa, probably heat shock proteins. The HGE agent, E. equi, and E. phagocytophila share significant antigenicity by IFA and immunoblot. Coupled with the nearly identical nucleotide sequences of 16S rRNA genes, these data indicate that E. equi, E. phagocytophila, and the human granulocytic ehrlichia are closely related or identical species.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Microbiology (medical)