Genetic variation in Australian spotted fever group rickettsiae

Robert W. Baird, John Stenos, Rob Stewart, Bernie Hudson, Megan Lloyd, Sandra Aiuto, Brian Dwyer

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Rickettsiae were isolated by cell culture of buffy coat blood from six patients with spotted fever from southeastern Australia and Flinders Island in Bass Strait. The isolates were genetically compared with two previous Rickettsia australis patient isolates. The genus-specific 17-kDa genes from the isolates were compared after DNA amplification and restriction fragment analysis of the amplified DNA. This comparison revealed that mainland rickettsial isolates from southeastern Australia were identical to two previous isolates of R. australis from northeastern Australia. Rickettsial isolates from Flinders Island were distinct from the mainland isolates. The 16S rRNA gene sequences from the isolates were determined and compared. The Flinders Island rickettsial agent was most closely related (0.3% structural divergence) to Rickettsia rickettsii, Rickettsia conorii, and Rickettsia slovaca. The Flinders Island rickettsial agent was 1.3 and 2.1% structurally divergent from R. australis and Rickettsia akari, respectively. The 16S rRNA gene sequence from the Flinders Island agent shows that this rickettsia is more closely related to the rickettsial spotted fever group than is R. australis. We conclude that there are two populations of spotted fever group rickettsiae in Australia and propose that the genetically distinct causative organism of Flinders Island spotted fever be designated Rickettsia honei. The extent of distribution and animal host reservoirs remain to be elucidated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1526-1530
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1996
Externally publishedYes


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