Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis in the Laboratory Mouse

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C3H mice that were inoculated with ehrlichiae isolated from a patient with human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) developed anemia and leukopenia, but by day 24, they returned to normal values. Granulocytic morulae were present in peripheral blood and spleen smears on days 5 and 10, and there was a reduction in morulae on day 17. Ehrlichiae were present in HL-60 cell cultures of blood and spleen from all mice at all intervals. Pathogenicity, but not infectivity, waned with mouse passage but could be resurrected by SCID mouse passage. Various methods were tested for their relative sensitivity in detecting infection: blood smears, HL-60 cell cultures, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of a 16S recombinant DNA target, and a mouse infectivity assay. All assays detected the HGE agent in blood during early infection, but PCR and the mouse infectivity assay were most sensitive during late infection. Xenodiagnosis demonstrated that mice remain persistently infected through 55 days.

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