Ehrlichiainfection of the central nervous system

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Abstract

Opinion statement

Ehrlichiosis in the United States is caused by three closely related bacterial species (Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Ehrlichia ewingii, and Anaplasma phagocytophilum), all transmitted through tick bite. Although there is variation with respect to geography and tick vector, the clinical manifestations are similar, and treatment of these infections is identical. Ehrlichiosis can present with a spectrum of neurologic manifestations, ranging in severity from headache to meningoencephalitis. Treatment is straightforward if the diagnosis is suspected, but antibiotic therapy should not be delayed pending laboratory confirmation. Doxycycline, the treatment of choice for adults and children with suspected ehrlichiosis, has high bioavailability and can be administered orally in most cases. Therapy is typically continued at least 3 days after the last documented fever. Although there have been no studies specifically evaluating duration or dosing of doxycycline for Ehrlichia meningoencephalitis, anecdotal reports suggest 100 mg doxycycline administered twice daily is effective, despite limited penetration into the cerebrospinal fluid. Because doxycycline interacts with CYP3A4 enzymes, there is potential for drug interactions with a number of medications. In endemic areas, documentation of coinfection with Borrelia burgdorferi, the etiologic agent of Lyme disease, may require prolonging the duration of doxycycline therapy.

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