Spotted Fever Group Rickettsiae: A Brief Review and a Canadian Perspective

Authors

  • H. Wood,

    1.  Zoonotic Diseases and Special Pathogens, National Microbiology Laboratory, Public Health Agency of Canada, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    2.  Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
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  • H. Artsob

    1.  Zoonotic Diseases and Special Pathogens, National Microbiology Laboratory, Public Health Agency of Canada, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    2.  Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
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H. Wood. Zoonotic Diseases and Special Pathogens, National Microbiology Laboratory, Public Health Agency of Canada, 1015 Arlington Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3E 3R2 and
Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Manitoba, 745 Bannatyne Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3E 0J9 Canada. Tel.: 204-789-6097; Fax: 204-789-2140; E-mail: heidi.wood@phac-aspc.gc.ca

Summary

Spotted fever group rickettsioses (SFGR) are infections caused by established and emerging human pathogens worldwide. These rickettsial agents are transmitted to humans via arthropods and may result in mild to severe and potentially fatal diseases. Spotted fever group rickettsioses are characterized by similar clinical features, including fever, rash, headache and myalgias, with the development of an inoculation eschar in many, but not all cases. Endemic rickettsial infections do occur but are infrequent in Canada, in contrast to the United States, where these infections are far more prevalent. Travel-associated rickettsioses, however, are being diagnosed with increasing frequency in Canadian travellers returning from international trips abroad, in particular in travellers returning from Africa. The diagnosis of rickettsial infections can be challenging owing to the non-specific nature of the clinical symptoms and the requirement for specialized testing. Serology cannot distinguish between the approximately 20 spotted fever group rickettsial species currently known or suspected to be capable of causing human infection. Molecular testing is required to determine the rickettsial species responsible for infection, but requires greater effort on the part of the clinician to collect appropriate samples, including cutaneous skin swabs from under the eschar or skin punch biopsies of the eschar or rash. Infections with spotted fever group rickettsiae likely occur more commonly than currently recognized and should be considered in patients with appropriate symptoms and exposure histories.

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