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Experimental cross-infections with Ehrlichia phagocytophila and human granulocytic ehrlichia-like agent in cows and horses
  1. N. Pusterla, DrMedVet1,
  2. J. B. Pusterla, DrMedVet1,
  3. U. Braun, DrMedVet1 and
  4. H. Lutz, DrMedVet1
  1. 1 Department of Veterinary Internal Medicine, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 260, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland


Four cows and four horses were infected experimentally with Ehrlichia phagocytophila, the cause of tickborne fever in ruminants, and with human granulocytic ehrlichia-like agent, a recently discovered species that infects people, horses and dogs in the USA and Europe. They were infected in either order, 30 days apart, to investigate serological cross-reactivity within the E phagocytophila genogroup. The course of infection was assessed by routine clinical, haematological, serological and polymerase chain reaction (PcR) examinations. Two of the cows infected with E phagocytophila and two of the horses infected with granulocytic ehrlichia-like agent, developed characteristic signs of ehrlichiosis. When the same animals were infected with their heterologous ehrlichial isolate 30 days later, they did not develop clinical signs of disease. The infection of the other two cows with human granulocytic ehrlichia-like agent and the other two horses with E phagocytophila, resulted in asymptomatic seroconversion. When the same animals were infected with their homologous ehrlichial isolate 30 days later, they remained asymptomatic and had normal haematological results and negative PCRS until the end of the monitoring period, 60 days after the first infection. In these animals, there was an increase in antibody titre after the second infection which was interpreted as a specific immune response, and as a reactivation of the immune response to the first infection.

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