Diagnosis of Spotted Fever Group Rickettsioses in U.S. Travelers Returning from Africa, 2007-2016.Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2018 07; 99(1):136-142.AJ
Spotted fever group rickettsioses (SFGRs), such as African tick bite fever (ATBF), are among the most commonly diagnosed diseases for ill travelers returning from southern Africa. We summarized demographic, clinical, and diagnostic features of imported SFGR cases in U.S. travelers returning from Africa who had laboratory specimens submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diagnosis of SFGR was performed by indirect immunofluorescence antibody assay, immunohistochemical staining, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), or culture. Cases were defined as probable SFGR, confirmed SFGR, or confirmed ATBF. Clinical and epidemiological categorical variables were described as counts and proportions; continuous variables were described using geometric mean titers, median, and range. One hundred and twenty-seven patients satisfied laboratory criteria for confirmed or probable SFGR. Fever was the most common symptom (N = 88; 69%), followed by ≥ 1 eschars (N = 70; 55%). Paired serums were submitted for 36 patients (28%); 12 patients (33%) had nonreactive initial serum sample but converted to a titer ≥ 64 with the convalescent sample. Twenty-seven patients (21%) had infection with Rickettsia africae based on PCR analysis of eschar swab (N = 8) or biopsy (N = 23). Fifteen patients had eschar biopsy or swab samples and serum sample(s) submitted together; 9 (60%) had PCR-positive eschar results and nonreactive acute serology. Health-care providers should consider SFGR when evaluating patients for a febrile illness with eschar and compatible foreign travel history. Polymerase chain reaction testing of eschar biopsies or swabs provides a confirmed diagnosis in early stages of disease; eschar swabs or biopsies are an underutilized diagnostic technique.