Human spotted fever group rickettsioses are underappreciated in southern Taiwan, particularly for the species closely-related to Rickettsia felis.PLoS One. 2014; 9(4):e95810.Plos
Despite increased identification of spotted fever group rickettsioses (SFGR) in animals and arthropods, human SFGR are poorly characterized in Taiwan.
Patients with suspected Q fever, scrub typhus, murine typhus, leptospirosis, and dengue fever from April 2004 to December 2009 were retrospectively investigated for SFGR antibodies (Abs). Sera were screened for Rickettsia rickettsii Abs by indirect immunofluorescence antibody assay (IFA), and those with positive results were further examined for Abs against R. rickettsii, R. typhi, R. felis, R. conorii, and R. japonica using micro-immunofluorescence (MIF) tests. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for detection of SFGR DNA was applied in those indicated acute infections. Case geographic distribution was made by the geographic information system software.
A total of 413 cases with paired serum, including 90 cases of Q fever, 47 cases of scrub typhus, 12 cases of murine typhus, 6 cases of leptospirosis, 3 cases of dengue fever, and 255 cases of unknown febrile diseases were investigated. Using IFA tests, a total of 49 cases with 47 (11.4%) and 4 (1.0%) cases had sera potentially positive for R. rickettsii IgG and IgM, respectively. In the 49 cases screened from IFA, MIF tests revealed that there were 5 cases of acute infections (3 possible R. felis and 2 undetermined SFGR) and 13 cases of past infections (3 possible R. felis and 10 undetermined SFGR). None of the 5 cases of acute infection had detectable SFGR DNA in the blood specimen by PCR. Possible acute infection of R. felis was identified in both one case of Q fever and scrub typhus. The geographic distribution of SFGR cases is similar with that of scrub typhus.
Human SFGR exist and are neglected diseases in southern Taiwan, particularly for the species closely-related to R. felis.