Medical Definition of Ehrlichiosis

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Reviewed on 9/7/2018

Ehrlichiosis: An acute (abrupt onset) disease, first reported in humans in 1986, due to infection by the rickettsial agent, Ehrlichia canis. The brown dog tick, is the common vector (carrier).

Ehrlichiosis is clinically similar to Rocky Mountain spotted fever with high fever, headache, malaise, and muscle pain but without a rash.

Laboratory features include leukopenia (low white blood cell count), thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), mild anemia, and elevation in the levels of hepatic aminotransferase enzymes.

Clinical symptoms and laboratory abnormalities respond promptly to therapy with the antibiotics tetracycline or doxycycline, and the majority of patients become afebrile within 24 to 48 hours after the start of such treatment.

The diagnosis of ehrlichiosis rests on the detection of ehrlichia either by direct means or by the indirect means of serologic studies. Three methods are available for detection: inspection of peripheral-blood smears, PCR testing, and tissue culture.

The disease ehrlichiosis is named for the great German Nobel Prize winning physician and bacteriologist Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915).


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Reviewed on 9/7/2018