Monoclonal antibody-based immunohistochemical diagnosis of rickettsialpox: The macrophage is the principal target

David H. Walker, S. David Hudnall, Wojciech K. Szaniawski, Hui Min Feng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Cutaneous biopsies of five eschars and two rash lesions from five patients from New York City with documented rickettsialpox were examined by immunohistochemical methods with a monoclonal antibody directed against spotted fever group rickettsial lipopolysaccharide for the presence and cellular location of Rickettsia akari. Rickettsiae were identified in all of the five patients, with good concordance of results for the same biopsy tissues with previously reported results by the direct immunofluorescence method. In contrast with immunofluorescence, which did not reveal the location of the organisms, immunohistochemical examination demonstrated R. akari to be in perivascular cells, morphologically resembling macrophages. Evaluation with double staining for rickettsiae and either CD68 or Factor VIII-related antigen revealed that the predominant infected cell type was CD68-positive macrophages, and only a rare rickettsia was detected in vascular endothelium, the major target cell for other rickettsioses. These results provide a diagnostic method for rickettsialpox and other spotted fever group rickettsioses and indicate that the elucidation of the pathogenesis of rickettsialpox must take into account that its target cell differs from that of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, boutonneuse fever, louse- borne typhus fever, and murine typhus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-533
Number of pages5
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1999


  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lipopolysaccharide
  • Macrophage
  • Monoclonal antibody
  • Rickettsia akari
  • Rickettsialpox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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