, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 317-323,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Seroreactivity for spotted fever rickettsiae and co-infections with other tick-borne agents among habitants in central and southern Sweden


Patients seeking medical care with erythema migrans or flu-like symptoms after suspected or observed tick bite in the southeast of Sweden and previously investigated for Borrelia spp. and/or Anaplasma sp. were retrospectively examined for serological evidence of rickettsial infection (Study 1). Twenty of 206 patients had IgG and/or IgM antibodies to Rickettsia spp. equal to or higher than the cut-off titre of 1:64. Seven of these 20 patients showed seroconversion indicative of recent or current infection and 13 patients had titres compatible with past infection, of which five patients were judged as probable infection. Of 19 patients with medical records, 11 were positive for Borrelia spp. as well, and for Anaplasma sp., one was judged as positive. Five of the 19 patients had antibodies against all three pathogens. Erythema migrans or rash was observed at all combinations of seroreactivity, with symptoms including fever, muscle pain, headache and respiratory problems. The results were compared by screening an additional 159 patients (Study 2) primarily sampled for the analysis of Borrelia spp. or Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Sixteen of these patients were seroreactive for Rickettsia spp., of which five were judged as recent or current infection. Symptoms of arthritis, fever, cough and rash were predominant. In 80 blood donors without clinical symptoms, approximately 1 % were seroreactive for Rickettsia spp., interpreted as past infection. The study shows that both single and co-infections do occur, which illustrate the complexity in the clinical picture and a need for further studies to fully understand how these patients should best be treated.

The study was reviewed and approved by the Ethics Committee Lund, Linköping and Uppsala University.
A. Lindblom and K. Wallménius shared the first authorship of this paper.