Histologic features and immunodetection of African tick-bite fever eschar

Emerg Infect Dis. 2006 Sep;12(9):1332-7. doi: 10.3201/eid1209.051540.


African tick-bite fever (ATBF) is a rickettsiosis caused by Rickettsia africae. We describe histologic features and immunodetection of R. africae in cutaneous inoculation eschars from 8 patients with ATBF, which was diagnosed by culture or association of positive PCR detection and positive serologic results. We used quantitative image analysis to compare the pattern of inflammation of these eschars with those from Mediterranean spotted fever. We evaluated the diagnostic value of immunohistochemical techniques by using a monoclonal antibody to R. africae. ATBF eschars were histologically characterized by inflammation of vessels composed mainly of significantly more polymorphonuclear leukocytes than are found in cases of Mediterranean spotted fever (p < 0.05). Small amounts R. africae antigens were demonstrated by immunohistochemical examination in 6 of 8 patients with ATBF. Neutrophils in ATBF are a notable component of the host reaction, perhaps because ATBF is a milder disease than the other rickettsioses. Immunohistochemical detection of rickettsial antigens may be useful in diagnosing ATBF.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / immunology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antigens, Bacterial / analysis*
  • Biopsy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Rickettsia / classification
  • Rickettsia / genetics
  • Rickettsia / immunology
  • Rickettsia / isolation & purification*
  • Rickettsia Infections / diagnosis
  • Rickettsia Infections / microbiology
  • Rickettsia Infections / pathology
  • Skin / microbiology
  • Skin / pathology*
  • Tick-Borne Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Tick-Borne Diseases / microbiology
  • Tick-Borne Diseases / pathology*


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Bacterial