Serum samples from 381 black bears (Ursus americanus) killed in Pennsylvania (USA) on 24 November 1997 were analyzed for antibodies reactive to the agent of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE; Ehrlichiasp.) by indirect immunofluorescence assay. Antibody reactivity to HGE antigen was detected in 21% (81/381) of the samples collected. Reactive samples were reported from 56% (14/25) of the counties where bear samples were collected. Endpoint antibody titer ranged from 1:8 to 1:16, 192, with a geometric mean titer of 1:582. There was no significant difference in antibody prevalence between male and female bears (P < 0.01). However, adult bears were significantly more likely to have reactive antibodies than juvenile bears (P < 0.01). Attempts to amplify and detect granulocytic ehrlichial DNA from corresponding bear blood clots (n = 181) through nested polymerase chain reaction assays were unsuccessful. Further studies are needed for identification of the pathogen-responsible for induction of HGE-reactive. This is the first description of antibodies reactive to the HGE agent in black bears and suggests these mammals are infected with the agent of HGE or an antigenically related ehrlichial species.
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Vol. 38 • No. 1