Human infections by multiple spotted fever group rickettsiae in Tennessee

Josie Delisle, Nicole L. Mendell, Annica Stull-Lane, Karen C. Bloch, Donald H. Bouyer, Abelardo C. Moncayo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the most common tick-borne disease in Tennessee. However, Rickettsia rickettsii has rarely been isolated from endemic ticks, suggesting rickettsioses may be caused by other species. A total of 56 human serum samples that were serologically positive for exposure to Rickettsia were obtained from commercial laboratories in 2010 and 2011. In addition, 20 paired sera from patients with encephalitis and positive Rickettsia serology were obtained from the Tennessee Unexplained Encephalitis Surveillance (TUES) study. Using an immunofluorescence assay, reactivity of the sera to R. rickettsii, Rickettsia montanensis, Rickettsia parkeri, and Rickettsia amblyommii was tested, and a comparison of endpoint titers was used to determine the probable antigen that stimulated the antibody response. Cross-absorption was conducted for 94.8% (N = 91) of the samples due to serologic cross-reactivity. Of the commercial laboratory samples, 55.4% (N = 31) had specific reactivity to R. amblyommii and 44.6% (N = 25) were indeterminate. Of the paired TUES samples, 20% (N = 4) had specific reactivity to R. amblyommii, 5% (N = 1) to R. montanensis, and 5% (N = 1) to R. parkeri. Patients with specific reactivity to R. amblyommii experienced fever (75%), headache (68%) and myalgia (58%). Rash (36%) and thrombocytopenia (40%) were less common. To our knowledge, this is the first time R. amblyommii has been reported as a possible causative agent of rickettsioses in Tennessee.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1212-1217
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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