The natural reservoirs for the agent of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) are suspected to be the small mammals that host immature stages of Ixodes scapularis ticks. To determine if such small mammals are naturally infected, we collected blood and serum samples from small mammal species in rural and suburban areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn. Samples were collected from white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus), southern red-backed voles (Clethrionomys gapperi), and insectivorous shrews (Blarina brevicauda and Sorex cinereus). Blood samples were tested by PCR for active infection with the HGE agent, and sera from P. leucopus mice were tested for serologic evidence of infection by indirect immunofluorescence. PCR analyses revealed the presence of HGE agent DNA in 20 of the 190 samples (10.5%) tested. Of the 119 P. leucopus mouse serum samples that were analyzed, 12 (10.1%) contained Ehrlichia equi antibodies. In 3 of 119 (2.5%) P. leucopus mice from which both blood and serum were collected, HGE agent DNA and antibodies against E. equi were present. Animals with evidence of infection with the HGE agent are widely distributed around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in regions with known I. scapularis tick activity. Small mammals that are frequent hosts for larval I. scapularis ticks and that are found in areas where HGE occurs are likely to be a major reservoir from which infected ticks that bite humans are derived.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Microbiology (medical)