Evaluation of the pathogenic potential of Rickettsia canada and Rickettsia prowazekii organisms in dogs

E B Breitschwerdt, B C Hegarty, M G Davidson, N S Szabados
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 1995 July 1, 207 (1): 58-63
An unusual pattern of seroreactivity to antigens of rickettsial organisms (Rickettsia rickettsii, R rhipicephali, R montana, and R bellii), particularly to R bellii antigen, was detected in 3 dogs during a 2-month period. Thus, studies were initiated to clarify the pathogenic potential of the more distantly related rickettsial organisms (R canada and R prowazekii) in dogs. Because R bellii are nonpathogenic rickettsiae that share numerous common properties with spotted fever-group and typhus-group rickettsiae, and because closely related pathogenic relatives of R bellii have not been identified, we examined the pathogenic potential of these typhus-group rickettsiae by testing stored serum samples, by attempting rickettsial isolation from febrile dogs, and by experimentally inoculating dogs with R canada and R prowazekii. Evaluation of results of a serosurvey of acute and convalescent serum samples from 80 dogs in which Rocky Mountain spotted fever had been considered as a differential diagnosis, but seroconversion to R rickettsii had not been documented, identified 1 dog with a fourfold increase in antibody titer to R rhipicephali and 3 dogs with fourfold increases in antibody titer to 1 or more antigens of typhus-group rickettsial organisms. A study of 15 dogs that were febrile during summer months failed to identify serologic or tissue culture evidence of typhus-group rickettsial infection or typhus-group rickettsemia, but did result in isolation of R rickettsii and Ehrlichia canis, respectively, from 1 dog each. In our final study, after experimentally inoculating 6 dogs with R canada and R prowazekii, all dogs seroconverted to the respective rickettsiae, but rickettsemia or clinical and hematologic evidence of disease was not observed.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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