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J Clin Microbiol. 2005 Sep;43(9):4708-12.

Multispacer typing of Rickettsia prowazekii enabling epidemiological studies of epidemic typhus.

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Unité des Rickettsies, CNRS UMR 6020, IFR 48, Faculté de Médecine, Université de la Méditerranée, Marseille, France.


Currently, there is no tool for typing Rickettsia prowazekii, the causative agent of epidemic typhus, currently considered a potential bioterrorism agent, at the strain level. To test if the multispacer typing (MST) method could differentiate strains of R. prowazekii, we amplified and sequenced the 25 most variable intergenic spacers between the R. prowazekii and R. conorii genomes in five strains and 10 body louse amplicons of R. prowazekii from various geographic origins. Two intergenic spacers, i.e., rpmE/tRNA(fMet) and serS/virB4, were variable among tested R. prowazekii isolates and allowed identification of three and two genotypes, respectively. When the genotypes obtained from the two spacers were combined, we identified four different genotypes. MST demonstrated that several R. prowazekii strains circulated in human body lice during an outbreak of epidemic typhus in Burundi. This may help to discriminate between natural and intentional outbreaks. Our study supports the usefulness of MST as a versatile method for rickettsial strain genotyping.

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