Blood samples from six mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus hemionus), 15 black-tailed deer (O. hemionus columbianus), and 29 elk (Cervus elaphus nannodes) were assayed for human monocytic and human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), DNA sequencing, and serology to determine whether or not cervids are involved in the maintenance of these potential human pathogens in California (USA). The deer were sampled in August to October 1992–95. The 29 tule elk from Point Reyes National Seashore were sampled in August 1997. All deer were seronegative for antibodies to HGE/Ehrlichia equi, while the E. equi seroprevalence among elk was 17%. The 16S rDNA PCR prevalence in deer was 38% (in mule deer and black-tailed deer) for Ehrlichia-like sp. of white-tailed deer, 5% (one black-tailed deer only) for E. equi, and 0% for E. chaffeensis. The PCR prevalence in elk was 0% for Ehrlichia-like sp. of white-tailed deer, 31% for E. equi, and 0% for E. chaffeensis. The E. equi from two positive elk samples was successfully propagated in HL-60 cell cultures. DNA sequencing confirmed that the Ehrlichia-like sp. sequences from deer in California were closely related to sequences reported from white-tailed deer from Oklahoma and Georgia. The E. equi strain from deer and elk resembled other E. equi strains from California. These results suggest that cervids may be important in the natural maintenance of E. equi in California.
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