Ehrlichia under our noses and no one notices
Ehrlichia chaffeensis, an obligately intracellular bacterium, resides within a cytoplasmic vacuole in macrophages, establishes persistent infection in natural hosts such as white-tailed deer and canids, and is transmitted transstadially and during feeding by ticks, particularly Amblyomma americanum. Ehrlichial cell walls contain glycoproteins and a family of divergent 28 kDa proteins, but no peptidoglycan or lipopolysaccharide. The dense-cored ultrastructural form preferentially expresses certain glycoproteins, including a multiple repeat unit-containing adhesin. Ehrlichiae attach to L-selectin and E-selectin, inhibit phagolysosomal fusion, apoptosis, and JAK/STAT activation, and downregulate IL-12, IL-15, IL-18, TLR2 and 3, and CD14. Mouse models implicate overproduction of TNF-α by antigen-specific CD8 T lymphocytes in pathogenesis and strong type 1 CD4 and CD8 T lymphocyte responses, synergistic activities of IFN-γ and TNF-α, and IgG2a antibodies in immunity.
Human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis (HME) manifests as a flu-like illness that progresses in severity to resemble toxic shock-like syndrome, with meningoencephalitis or adult respiratory distress syndrome in some patients, and requires hospitalization in half. In immunocompromised patients, HME acts as an overwhelming opportunistic infection. In one family physician’s practice, active surveillance for three years revealed an incidence of 1000 cases per million population. Diagnosis employs serology or polymerase chain reaction, which are not utilized sufficiently to establish the true impact of this emerging virus-like illness.
KeywordsWest Nile Virus Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome Emerg Infect Spotted Fever Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
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