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Mod Pathol. 2001 Aug;14(8):752-9.

Identification of the target cells of Orientia tsutsugamushi in human cases of scrub typhus.

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Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, 301 University Blvd., Galveston, TX 77555, USA.


Orientia tsutsugamushi is the etiologic agent of scrub typhus, a chigger-borne zoonosis that is a highly prevalent, life-threatening illness of greatest public health importance in tropical Asia and the islands of the western Pacific Ocean. The target cell of this bacterium is poorly defined in humans. In this study, O. tsutsugamushi were identified by immunohistochemistry using a rabbit polyclonal antibody raised against O. tsutsugamushi Karp strain in paraffin-embedded archived autopsy tissues of three patients with clinical suspicion of scrub typhus who died during World War II and the Vietnam War. Rickettsiae were located in endothelial cells in all of the organs evaluated, namely heart, lung, brain, kidney, pancreas, and skin, and within cardiac muscle cells and in macrophages located in liver and spleen. Electron microscopy confirmed the location of rickettsiae in endothelium and cardiac myocytes.

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