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Tularemia in Germany: the tip of the iceberg?

  • W. D. SPLETTSTOESSER (a1), I. PIECHOTOWSKI (a2), A. BUCKENDAHL (a1), D. FRANGOULIDIS (a1), P. KAYSSER (a1), W. KRATZER (a3), P. KIMMIG (a4), E. SEIBOLD (a1) and S. O. BROCKMANN (a2)...

Summary

Tularemia is a rare, notifiable zoonosis in Germany. Since November 2004, several lines of evidence including outbreaks in humans or animals and confirmed infections in indigenous hare and rodent populations have indicated a re-emergence of tularemia in different German federal states. Unfortunately, reliable basic information on the seroprevalence in different geographical regions, permitting the identification of risk factors, does not exist. Combining a sensitive screening assay with a highly specific confirmative immunoblot test, we performed a serological investigation on 2416 sera from a population-based, cross-sectional health survey of the city population of Leutkirch, Baden-Wuerttemberg. A total of 56 sera gave positive results indicating a seroprevalence of 2·32%. Thus, the seroprevalence is tenfold higher than that previously reported in a nationwide study in 2004. Francisella tularensis can cause a wide variety of clinical syndromes including severe, sometimes fatal disease. Missing epidemiological data on its spatial and temporal distribution in an endemic country complicate an appropriate risk assessment necessary for public health authorities to be prepared for an adequate outbreak management. This is of special concern regarding the extraordinary potential of F. tularensis as an agent of bioterrorism. Our investigation performed in a presumed low-risk area demonstrated that tularemia might be seriously underestimated in Germany and probably in other central European countries as well.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence: Dr W. D. Splettstoesser, German National Reference Laboratory for Francisella tularensis, Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology, Department of Immunology, Neuherbergstrasse 11, 80937 Munich, Germany. (Email: wolfsplettstoesser@bundeswehr.org)

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Keywords

Tularemia in Germany: the tip of the iceberg?

  • W. D. SPLETTSTOESSER (a1), I. PIECHOTOWSKI (a2), A. BUCKENDAHL (a1), D. FRANGOULIDIS (a1), P. KAYSSER (a1), W. KRATZER (a3), P. KIMMIG (a4), E. SEIBOLD (a1) and S. O. BROCKMANN (a2)...

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