Antibodies to spotted fever-group rickettsiae in dogs in North Carolina

E B Breitschwerdt, D J Moncol, W T Corbett, J N MacCormack, W Burgdorfer, R B Ford, M G Levy
American Journal of Veterinary Research 1987, 48 (10): 1436-40
A seroepidemiologic survey was conducted to determine the prevalence of antibodies reactive with 4 spotted fever-group (SFG) rickettsiae in sera of dogs from various geographic regions in North Carolina. Serum specimens were obtained from 600 dogs, and antibody titers were determined, using microimmunofluorescence. Data analysis (setting as the criterion for a positive result, a Rickettsia rickettsii titer greater than or equal to 1:64) overestimated the actual prevalence of canine exposure to this rickettsia. When data were analyzed by considering each dog's serologic response to all 4 rickettsial antigens simultaneously, the prevalence rate for exposure to R montana was 15%, to R rhipicephali was 11%, and to R rickettsii was 5%. A definitive exposure to R bellii was not observed, and the identification of the specific inciting rickettsia could not be established for 13% of the dogs, because of identical highest titers to 2 or more antigens. Our data indicate that canine exposure to R rhipicephali is prevalent in the eastern coastal region, whereas exposure to R montana takes place uniformly throughout the state. Rickettsia rickettsii exposure appears to be more prevalent in the central Piedmont region, but rarely is encountered in the western mountains. Regional seroprevalence for canine R rickettsii exposure approximates that for human exposure. Our findings support earlier suggestions that dogs may serve as environmental sentinels for establishing the geographic prevalence of foci of spotted fever.

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