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Identification of Rickettsial Infections | CDC EID

EID Journal Home > Volume 17, Number 1–January 2011
Volume 17, Number 1–January 2011
Identification of Rickettsial Infections by Using Cutaneous Swab Specimens and PCR

Yassina Bechah, Cristina Socolovschi, and Didier Raoult Comments to Author

Author affiliation: Université de la Méditerranée, Marseille, France

Suggested citation for this article

To determine the usefulness of noninvasive cutaneous swab specimens for detecting rickettsiae, we tested skin eschars from 6 guinea pigs and from 9 humans. Specimens from eschars in guinea pigs were positive for rickettsiae as long as lesions were present. Optimal storage temperature for specimens was 4°C for 3 days.

Rickettsiae are a group of obligate, intracellular, gram-negative bacteria. The family Rickettsiaceae includes the genera Rickettsia and Orientia (1). Rickettsiae are transmitted to humans by arthropods (2) and cause diseases characterized by fever, headache, rash, and vasculitis (3). An infection eschar is commonly found at the site of the arthropod bite because of local multiplication of the bacteria. Incidence of infection with rickettsiae is increasing worldwide (4) in certain disease-endemic foci, and seasonal, sporadic (5,6), and occasionally epidemic forms have been reported (7). Over the past 20 years, advances in molecular techniques and cell culture have facilitated identification of Rickettsiales, and new species and diseases have been described (4,8). Recently, a new Rickettsia species, 364D, was identified in patients from California (9).

Eschar biopsies are used for detection of Rickettsia spp., but this technique is invasive and painful for patients and is difficult to perform for certain areas of the body. Successful diagnosis in patients by using rapid, noninvasive, and painless techniques is beneficial. One study reported the usefulness of swabs of skin lesions in the diagnosis of 3 cases of Queensland tick typhus and 1 case of African tick bite fever (10). In addition, eschar crust samples were useful in the diagnosis of 1 case of infection with Orientia tsutsugamushi, the infectious agent of scrub typhus (11). To evaluate the potential usefulness of swabs of skin lesions for rickettsial diagnosis, we evaluated this procedure for eschars from 6 guinea pigs and 9 patients.

Identification of Rickettsial Infections | CDC EID

Suggested Citation for this Article

Bechah Y, Socolovschi C, Raoult D. Identification of rickettsial infections by using cutaneous swab specimens and PCR. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2011 Jan [date cited].

DOI: 10.3201/eid1701.100854

Comments to the Authors

Please use the form below to submit correspondence to the authors or contact them at the following address:

Didier Raoult, Unité de recherche sur les maladies infectieuses et tropicales émergentes (URMITE), CNRS UMR 6236, IRD 3R198, IFR 48, Université de la Méditerranée, Faculté de Médecine, 27 Boulevard Jean Moulin, 13385 Marseille CEDEX 05,
France; email:

Identification of Rickettsial Infections | CDC EID

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