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A real-time combined polymerase chain reaction assay for the rapid detection and differentiation of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, and Ehrlichia ewingii.

A rapid real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay capable of the simultaneous detection and differentiation of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, and Ehrlichia ewingii was developed using the LightCyclertrade mark instrument (Roche Applied Sciences, Indianapolis, IN). The assay targets the operon groEL of the heat shock protein. Base pair mismatches in amplified DNA in regions of detection probe hybridization allowed organism differentiation by melting curve analysis. The analytical sensitivity was at least 10 copies per reaction. DNA extracts from 59 specimens previously confirmed positive for A. phagocytophilum (n = 37), E. chaffeensis (n = 19), or E. ewingii (n = 3) were used to evaluate the assay. All of the specimens positive for 1 of the 3 organisms by conventional PCR were likewise positive by the LightCycler method. Sensitivity and specificity were at least 100% compared with conventional PCR. This assay provides a rapid method for the detection and differentiation of the causative agents of human ehrlichiosis in the United States.

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