Coexistence of ehrlichiae of the phagocytophila group with Borrelia burgdorferi in Ixodes ricinus from Southern Germany
Human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) is an emerging infectious disease recognized in the Western hemisphere. HGE is well known to occur in North America, but records from outside the United States are sparse. The great majority of data from Europe are restricted to seroprevalence studies and molecular biological detection of granulocytic ehrlichiae (GE) in ticks and mammals, but include defined cases from Slovenia. They argue for the existence of this disease in many parts of Europe. In the present study, 510 Ixodes ricinus ticks collected in five different regions of Southern Germany were investigated for the presence of GE and Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato using polymerase chain reaction. In all, 8 (1.6%) of the 492 ticks that could be evaluated (193 females, 208 males, and 91 nymphs) contained GE and 178 (36.2%) B. burgdorferi s.l.. Four of these ticks were infected with both pathogens. Interestingly, all ehrlichia-infected ticks were adults and all were collected in the English Garden, a recreational park area located in the city of Munich. Sequencing of the 16S rDNA (bp 1–1101) of four of the GE showed 100% sequence identity to each other and greater than 99.9% identity with the published sequence of the HGE agent. The four GE differed in respect to other hitherto described GE by a nucleotide exchange at position 336. These results show that GE that are closely related to the HGE agent are present in Southern Germany, and that coinfection with B. burgdorferi is common in GE-infected ticks. However, in contrast to B. burgdorferi which is endemic everywhere in Southern Germany, the distribution of GE seems to be focal.
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