Molecular and serologic survey of Orientia tsutsugamushi infection among field rodents in southern Cholla Province, Korea.

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  • 1 Microbiology Division, Health and Environment Institute of Chollanam-do, Kwangiu, Korea.

Field rodents were collected from six areas in southern Cholla Province, Korea from October to December 1993. Twenty-eight (24%) of the 119 Apodemus agrarius were seropositive (> 1:10) for Orientia tsutsugamushi by the passive hemagglutination assay (PHA). Of the seropositive cases, 11 specimens had antibody titers greater than 1:80. No seropositive specimens were found among the eight Crocidura lasiura collected. On the other hand, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplified about 520 basepairs of a gene encoding the 56-kD protein from the genomic DNA of 12 strains of O. tsutsugamushi tested. This target DNA sequence was amplified from the 11 (8.7%) blood specimens of A. agrarius, and one of the eight C. lasiura also showed evidence of O. tsutsugamushi infection by PCR. Only one of the PCR-positive samples was also PHA-positive. These results suggest that the PCR combined with a serologic assay more accurately detects the degree of infection of rodents with rickettsiae-causing scrub typhus in epidemiologic surveys.