Prevalence of seropositivity to spotted fever group rickettsiae and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in a large, demographically diverse US sample

Paul C.F. Graf, Jean Paul Chretien*, Lady Ung, Joel C. Gaydos, Allen L. Richards

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Background. Most epidemiologic studies of tick-borne rickettsial diseases in the United States are small and have limited demographic scope, making broader risk assessment difficult. Methods. We conducted a seroprevalence study of spotted fever group rickettsiae and Anaplasma phagocytophilum, the agent of human granulocytic anaplasmosis. Specimens were selected randomly from the Department of Defense Serum Repository for 10,000 diverse military personnel at various stages in their careers who were serving with active duty status in 1997. Antibody testing included enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for Rickettsia rickettsii and A. phagocytophilum, and Western blot confirmation for A. phagocytophilum. Risk factors were assessed using logistic regression. Results. Subjects were mostly male and young and were diverse ethnically and geographically. Spotted fever group rickettsiae seropositivity was 6.0% (95% confidence interval, 5.5%-6.4%). In univariable logistic regression, seroprevalence was significantly higher among older subjects, men (6.5%, compared with 3.3% among women), black individuals (8.7%, compared with 5.6% among white individuals), subjects from states with above-average Rocky Mountain spotted fever incidence, and subjects in ground combat specialties. Associations remained significant in multivariable analysis for age, sex, black versus white race, home state with high incidence, and ground combat specialty. Among 696 subjects with serum samples obtained within 7 days after entering the military, the rate of seropositivity was 3.4% (95% confidence interval, 2.1%-4.8%). Seroprevalence was nonsignificantly lower in men (3.4%, compared with 3.7% in women ) and in black individuals (3.4%, compared with 4.1% in white individuals). A. phagocytophilum seropositivity, as determined by by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blot, was 2.6% and 0.11% (95% confidence interval, 0.05%-0.18%), respectively. Western blot seropositivity was not significantly associated with subject characteristics in univariable analysis. Conclusions. Spotted fever group rickettsiae exposure was common and A. phagocytophilum exposure was rare in a US population with broad demographic diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-77
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


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