New Approaches to Diagnosis and Therapy of Tularemia


Address for correspondence: Arne Tärnvik, M.D., Ph.D., Infectious Diseases, University of Umeå, SE-901 85 Umeå, Sweden. Voice: +46-90-7852300; fax: +46-90-11376.


Abstract: Francisella tularensis is a potent pathogen and a cause of severe human disease. The outcome of tularemia will depend on rapid insertion of appropriate antibiotics. Until recently, effective clinical handling was hampered by shortcomings in laboratory diagnostics. No suitable direct methods were available and, because of risks and isolate recovery difficulties associated with laboratory work, culture has been rarely practiced. Due to achievements from work on modern technology, however, tularemia can now be rapidly and specifically diagnosed. Conventional PCR has been successfully applied on wound specimens of patients acquiring tularemia, and prospects for application on other human specimens are promising. Besides allowing diagnostics at high sensitivity and specificity, the PCR technology will also facilitate the identification of cases of tularemia presenting with aberrant signs and symptoms. Antibiotics for efficacious treatment of tularemia have been available for several decades. Although highly valuable, these drugs are afflicted with adverse effects and/or are available only for parenteral therapy. Recently, quinolones have been shown to afford a new valuable option for treatment of tularemia caused by F. tularensis subsp. holarctica (type B). Experience in treating more severe disease caused by F. tularensis subsp. tularensis (type A) is currently limited. In essence, the clinical handling of tularemia is currently facilitated by new achievements in molecular diagnostics and, at least with regard to type B tularemia, by the introduction of quinolones for therapy.