Laboratory evaluation of a dot-blot enzyme immunoassay for serologic confirmation of illness due to Rickettsia conorii.

L E BroadhurstDivision of Preventive Medicine, Institute of Research, Washington, District of Columbia, USA.

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D J KellyDivision of Preventive Medicine, Institute of Research, Washington, District of Columbia, USA.

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C T ChanDivision of Preventive Medicine, Institute of Research, Washington, District of Columbia, USA.

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B L SmoakDivision of Preventive Medicine, Institute of Research, Washington, District of Columbia, USA.

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J F BrundageDivision of Preventive Medicine, Institute of Research, Washington, District of Columbia, USA.

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J B McClainDivision of Preventive Medicine, Institute of Research, Washington, District of Columbia, USA.

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R N MillerDivision of Preventive Medicine, Institute of Research, Washington, District of Columbia, USA.

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Of the 169 United States Army soldiers who deployed on a field training exercise to a remote area of Botswana for two weeks in January 1992, more than 30% developed a febrile illness within five days of their return. A diagnosis of South African tick typhus was suggested by soldiers' exposure to ticks, as well as the presence of eschars and vesicles at the site of tick bites, and tender regional lymphadenopathies. This high attack rate, experienced during such a short exposure period, emphasizes the hazard of illness due to Rickettsia conorii to persons visiting endemic areas. A rapid, diagnostic, semiquantitative enzyme immunoassay (DS) for detection of IgG and IgM antibodies to R. conorii was performed on 209 acute and convalescent sera from soldiers in the outbreak and on 75 control sera. For the acute sera from soldiers meeting the probable case definition of having both regional lymphadenopathy and tick bite eschar, as judged by an IgG indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA) test, the resulting sensitivity and specificity of the DS test were 100% and 48%, respectively. In the analysis of the acute sera, the DS test identified as reactive more of the probable cases (62%) than either the IgG (16%) or IgM (55%) IFAs. This simple and rapid diagnostic test could be useful in establishing a preliminary diagnosis of R. conorii rickettsiosis in remote settings when immediate confirmation by IFA is impossible.

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