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Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2016 Jul;7(5):653-656. doi: 10.1016/j.ttbdis.2016.02.010. Epub 2016 Feb 8.

Molecular diagnosis of Rickettsia infection in patients from Tunisia.

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Laboratory of Entomology, Pasteur Institute of Tunis, Tunis, Tunisia.
Laboratory of Microbiology, Research Laboratory "MPH", Habib Bourguiba University Hospital of Sfax, Sfax University, Sfax, Tunisia.
Infectious Diseases Department, Hedi Chaker University Hospital of Sfax, Sfax University, Sfax, Tunisia.
Infectious Diseases Department, Farhat Hached University Hospital of Sousse, Sousse, Tunisia.
Infectious Diseases Department, La Rabta University Hospital of Tunis, Tunis University, Tunisia.
Infectious Diseases Department, Menzel Bourguiba Regional Hospital, Bizerte, Tunisia.
Laboratory of Entomology, Pasteur Institute of Tunis, Tunis, Tunisia. Electronic address:


Diagnosis of rickettsioses had largely benefited from the development of molecular techniques. Unfortunately, in Tunisia, despite the large number of rickettsial cases registered every year, the Rickettsia species remain unidentified. In this study, we aimed to detect the Rickettsia species in clinical samples using molecular tests. A study was established to analyze skin biopsies, cutaneous swabs, and cerebrospinal fluid samples taken from clinically suspected patients to have rickettsial infection. Two molecular techniques were used to detect Rickettsia DNA: quantitative real time PCR (qPCR) and reverse line blot test (RLB). An analysis of the RLB hybridization assay results revealed the presence of Rickettsia DNA in skin biopsies (40.6%) and swabs (46.7%). Rickettsia conorii was the most prevalent identified species among tested samples. Other species of interest include Rickettsia typhi and Rickettsia massiliae. Using qPCR positivity rates in skin biopsies was 63.7% against 80% in swabs. R. conorii was the most frequently detected species, followed by R. typhi. The agreement between the two techniques was 68.6% (kappa=0.33). Molecular tests, especially using specific probes qPCR, allow for a rapid, better and confident diagnosis in clinical practice. They improve the survey of Mediterranean spotted fever which is considered to be the most important rickettsial infection in humans in Tunisia.


Cerebrospinal fluid RLB; Rickettsia; Skin biopsy; Swab; qPCR

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