Diagnosis of Rickettsia infection would benefit by use of the more rapid and sensitive method of quantitative realtime PCR than the time-intensive and less sensitive method of culturing Rickettsia species from skin biopsies. We evaluated culture sensitivity compared to PCR according to sampling delay and previous antibiotic treatment. We found that skin biopsies can be positive even when molecular tests were negative, and a negative result using molecular assays did not exclude the diagnosis of Rickettsia spp. infection. Rickettsia africae was the most common species in skin biopsies and R. slovaca was most common in ticks. We found a positive correlation between the number of bacteria copies and the isolation success in skin biopsies and ticks. The probability of isolating Rickettsia spp. was higher in untreated patients and in patients from our hometown. To increase the sensitivity of culture, skin biopsies should be sampled before treatment early in the course of the disease and should be inoculated as soon as possible.
This article is published online in PLoS ONE and is free to access.