Spotted Fever Group – Rickettsiae in the Tyrols: Evidence by Seroepidemiology and PCR


S. T. Sonnleitner. Unterwalden 30, A-9931 Außervillgraten, Austria. Tel.: +43 4843 20065; Fax: 0043 4843 200 93; E-mail:


The aim of our study was to assess the occurrence of Rickettsia in the inner-alpine valleys of the Eastern Alps and to determine the amount of seroreaction among the local human population. Ticks were investigated by PCR and the percentage of seropositives was determined among local blood donors by an in-house immunofluorescence assay. The local cut-off titre for screening of IgG was set at 1 : 128 with a well-characterised low-risk collective according to WHO-guidelines. Positive sera were confirmed by independent re-testing. Rickettsia is present in ticks north and south of the continental divide. Of 259 ticks investigated, 12.4% are positive for Rickettsia. Of over 1200 blood donors tested so far, 7.7% bear IgG at a titre of 1 : 128 or higher against R. helvetica. R. helvetica is present in the study area, causes immunoreaction among local residents and is associated with anamnestic erythema. Furthermore, screening with a second Spotted Fever Group Rickettsia indicates that significant parts of the Tyrolean population are exposed to a Rickettsia other than R. helvetica.