Antibodies reactive with Ehrlichia chaffeensis were detected in raccoon (Procyon lotor) serum samples by using an indirect immunofluorescence assay. Samples from 411 raccoons trapped in the southeastern United States from 1977 to 1999 were tested. Serologically reactive samples with reciprocal titers of ≥16 were detected from 83 raccoons (20%) from 13 of 16 counties in eight states, indicating that raccoons are commonly exposed to E. chaffeensis. Samples collected as early as 1977 were positive. A polymerase chain reaction assay specific for E. chaffeensis failed to detect the presence of ehrlichial DNA in serum samples from 20 representative seroreactive raccoons. Because of serologic cross-reactivity among antigens derived from different Ehrlichia spp., additional immunologic, molecular, or culture-based studies will be required to confirm E. chaffeensis infections of raccoons in the southeastern United States.
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Vol. 36 • No. 4