Serological testing at the New York State Department of Health for human granulocytic ehrlichiosis in the residents of Westchester County, N.Y., was performed with specimens from 176 patients by the indirect fluorescent-antibody (IFA) technique with Ehrlichia equi MRK-infected neutrophils. To understand whether human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis also occurs in this northeastern geographic region, specimens were also tested for antibodies to Ehrlichia chaffeensis Arkansas. Screening tests and immunoblots for Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi infection) were also performed. Thirty-two patients had antibodies only to E. equi and 21 patients had antibodies to both E. equi and E. chaffeensis, whereas 12 patients had only E. chaffeensis antibodies by the IFA technique. The remaining patients did not have antibodies to either ehrlichia. Eighteen serum samples from 13 of these patients were coded and sent to the Ehrlichia Research Laboratory (Baltimore, Md.) for repeat analysis by the IFA test and for E. equi and E. chaffeensis immunoblots. Immunoblot analysis for E. equi in samples with positive IFA test results confirmed the results for eight of the nine specimens. Immunoblot analyses for E. chaffeensis were negative for all 18 serum samples. Borrelia-reactive antibodies were found in sera both from patients with granulocytic ehrlichiosis and from patients with monocytotropic ehrlichiosis from New York State. Our results suggest that E. equi antigen is an appropriate substrate for identifying human granulocytic ehrlichiosis. E. chaffeensis antigen lacks appropriate sensitivity to serve as a surrogate substrate for the detection of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis and should be used solely for the diagnosis of human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis. Heat shock proteins may, in some cases, cause cross-reactivity between B. burgdorferi and ehrlichiae
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