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J Med Entomol. 1994 Sep;31(5):681-5.

Murine typhus: updated roles of multiple urban components and a second typhuslike rickettsia.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore 21201.


Studies using serologic and polymerase chain reaction-(PCR) facilitated analysis of field samples from southern Texas indicate the presence of Rickettsia typhi and ELB agent infected cat fleas, Ctenocephalides felis (Bouché), and the first observation of ELB infected vertebrates (opossums). The ELB agent is a recently described typhus-like rickettsia that is not distinguished from R. typhi or R. prowazekii by currently available serologic reagents. Restriction digests of PCR products from 399 fleas revealed an ELB agent infection rate of 3.8% and a R. typhi infection rate of 0.8%. Three of nine tested opossums (Didelphis virginiana) were shown to harbor ELB agent infections. No R. typhi infected rats, Rattus norvegicus, or rat-fleas, Xenopsylla cheopis Rothschild, were detected among surveyed samples. The persistence of this murine typhus disease focus appears to be better accounted for by the presence of infected cat fleas, opossums, and other non-rat hosts found in close association with human populations. Involvement of the ELB agent in the biology of murine typhus is suggested by its prevalence among suspected vectors and reservoir hosts.

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