Human monocytic ehrlichiosis (HME) is a sometimes fatal, emerging tick-borne disease caused by the bacterium Ehrlichia chaffeensis. It is frequently misdiagnosed because its symptoms mimic those of the flu. Current evidence indicates that Amblyomma americanum (L.), the lone star tick, is the major vector of HME. To determine if E. chaffeensis is present in ticks at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, questing A. americanum ticks were collected from 33 sites. Nucleic acid was extracted from 34 adult and 81 nymphal pools. Sequences diagnostic for E. chaffeensis from three different loci (16S rRNA, 120-kDa protein, and a variable-length polymerase chain reaction [PCR] target, or VLPT) were targeted for amplification by the PCR. Fifty-two percent of the collection sites yielded pools infected with E. chaffeensis, confirming the presence and widespread distribution of E. chaffeensis at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Analysis with the both the 120-kDa protein primers and the VLPT primers showed that genetic variance exists. A novel combination of variance for the two loci was detected in two tick pools. The pathogenic implications of genetic variation in E. chaffeensis are as yet unknown.
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