Four white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) were inoculated intravenously with a deer-origin isolate (15B-WTD-GA) of Ehrlichia chaffeensis. The course of infection was monitored using indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA), polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and culture over a 9 m period. All deer became rickettsemic within 24 days post inoculation (DPI), and all developed antibody titers >1:64 to E. chaffeensis by 17 DPI. Titers in all deer fell below 1:64 during 87 to 143 DPI. One deer exhibited a second period of seropositivity (peak titer of 1:256) from 207 to 271 DPI but was culture and PCR negative during this period. Rickettsemia was confirmed by reisolation of E. chaffeensis as late as 73 to 108 DPI in three deer. Positive PCR results were obtained from femur bone marrow of one deer and from rumenal lymph node of another deer at 278 DPI. None of the deer developed clinical signs, hematologic abnormalities, or gross or microscopic lesions attributable to E. chaffeensis. Two uninoculated control deer were negative on all tests through 90 DPI at which time they were removed from the study. Herein we confirm that white-tailed deer become persistently infected with E. chaffeensis, have initial rickettsemias of several weeks duration and may experience recrudescence of rickettsemia, which reaffirm the importance of deer in the epidemiology of E. chaffeensis.
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Vol. 37 • No. 3