An aid in the diagnosis of spotted fever group rickettsial infections.
Rickettsial infections in the United States are caused by 2 major groups within the genus Rickettsia: spotted fever group and typhus fever group. The spotted fever group includes R rickettsii (Rocky Mountain spotted fever), R akari, R conorii (Boutonneuse fever), R australis (Queensland tick typhus), and R sibirica (North Asian tick typhus). The typhus fever group includes R typhi (murine typhus; endemic typhus) and R prowazekii (epidemic typhus).
R rickettsiae is the most common rickettsial species encountered in the United States and is transmitted through a tick vector (Dermacentor species or, less commonly, Rhipicephalus sanguineus). Following a 2- to 14-day incubation period, patients most commonly present with fever, chills, and myalgia. A maculopapular rash typically appears 2 to 5 days after fever onset, though approximately 10% of patients will not develop a rash. Antibodies to the spotted fever group agents are detectable within 7 to 10 days after illness onset. Demonstration of either 1) seroconversion or 2) a 4-fold change in IgG-specific antibody titers in acute and convalescent serum samples is consistent with acute or ongoing disease.