Isolation of the equine granulocytic ehrlichiosis agent, Ehrlichia equi, in tick cell culture

Ulrike G. Munderloh, John E. Madigan, J. Stephen Dumler, Jesse L. Goodman, Stanley F. Hayes, Jeffrey E. Barlough, Curtis M. Nelson, Timothy J. Kurtti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


The equine granulocytic ehrlichiosis agent, Ehrlichia equi, is closely related or identical to the human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) agent. Both are suspected of being transmitted by ticks. We have successfully isolated E. equi in a cell line, IDE8, derived from a putative vector, the tick Ixodes scapularis. Peripheral blood leukocytes from an experimentally infected horse were inoculated onto IDE8 monolayers. Cultures were incubated in a candle jar at 34°C in tick cell culture medium with NaHCO, and an organic buffer 13- (N-morpholino)-propanesulfonic acid] (MOPS). Within 2 weeks, infected cells were detected in Giemsa-stained culture samples, and the organisms subsequently spread to uninfected cells in the cultures. E. equi was passaged serially by transferring a portion of an infected culture to new cell layers every 2 to 3 weeks. The identity of the organisms was confirmed by PCR using oligonucleotide primers specific for E. equi and the HGE agent and by immunocytology. Homologous equine antibodies and human anti-HGE convalescent serum recognized E. equi grown in tick cell culture. Electron microscopy revealed electron-lucent and -dense ehrlichia-like forms developing within host cell endosomes. E. equi passaged twice in tick cell culture retained infectivity and pathogenicity for the equine host, as demonstrated by intravenous inoculation of a suspension of infected tick cells and subsequent reisolation from peripheral blood, in fulfillment of Koch's postulates. The horse developed severe clinical signs, i.e., fever, inappetence, thrombocytopenia, icterus, and limb edema, typical of granulocytic equine ehrlichiosis, within 1 week.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)664-670
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of clinical microbiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Isolation of the equine granulocytic ehrlichiosis agent, Ehrlichia equi, in tick cell culture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this