Body lice as tools for diagnosis and surveillance of reemerging diseases

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1999
Authors:V. Roux, Raoult D.
Journal:Journal of clinical microbiology
Pagination:596 - 599
Date Published:1999
Keywords:animals, Bartonella quintana/isolation & purification, Borrelia, Burundi, Congo, France, homeless, humans, Insect vectors, Lice Infestations/complications/epidemiology, Pediculus, Peru, polymerase, populations, Relapsing Fever, Rickettsia prowazekii/isolation & purification, Russia/epidemiology, trench fever, typhus, Zimbabwe

Body lice are vectors of three bacteria which cause human disease: Rickettsia prowazekii, the agent of epidemic typhus; Bartonella quintana, the agent of trench fever; and Borrelia recurrentis, the agent of relapsing fever. A recrudescence of body lice is being observed as the numbers of individuals living under social conditions which predispose individuals to infestation have increased. Because this phenomenon may lead to the reemergence of infections transmitted by body lice, we aimed to assess the occurrence and prevalence of the three agents described above in more than 600 body lice collected from infested individuals in the African countries of Congo, Zimbabwe, and Burundi, in France, in Russia, and in Peru. The presence of the three bacteria in each louse was determined by specific PCR amplification, and the identities of the organisms detected were confirmed by determination of the nucleotide base sequences of the amplification products. Using this approach, we were able to confirm the presence of R. prowazekii in lice collected from refugees in Burundi, among whom typhus was epidemic, and the presence of B. quintana in lice collected from all locations except the Congo. B. recurrentis was never found. Molecular approaches are convenient tools for the detection and identification of bacterial DNA in body lice and for the epidemiological study of louse-borne bacteria from countries where no medical and biological laboratory facilities are available.

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