Professor Stuart Blacksell

Research Area: Microbiology
Scientific Themes: Tropical Medicine & Global Health
Keywords: Scrub Typhus, Dengue, Biosafety, Rapid tests, Point of care, Diagnostics, Thailand and Laos
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Adjunct Associate Professor Stuart Blacksell is an Australian and has been actively been involved in studies in Asia (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China) since 1989. He been a member of Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of Oxford since August 2001 and is based at the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) in Bangkok, Thailand. From 1983-2001, prior to moving to the University of Oxford, he worked at the Biological Safety Level 4 (BSL 4) CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, as well as the organisation’s Thai and Lao-based projects. He holds Bachelor of Applied Science (Charles Sturt University), Master of Public Health and PhD degrees (both University of Queensland). He is also qualified as a Registered Biosafety Professional (RBP) by the American Biological Safety Association. He also holds Adjunct Associate Professorships at the School of Population Health, University of Queensland and School of Veterinary & Biomedical Science, Murdoch University in Australia. He is a Fellow of the Australian Society of Microbiology.

He is a senior microbiologist at MORU and has research studies investigating the improved diagnosis of tropical infections such as dengue and scrub typhus and evaluations of commericial point of care assays for tropical illnesses. He also has a strong interest in promoting biosafety in Asia. He has authored or co-authored more than 70 scientific papers in international journals and book chapters.

There are no collaborations listed for this principal investigator.

Sumonwiriya M, Paris DH, Sunyakumthorn P, Anantatat T, Jenjaroen K, Chumseng S, Im-Erbsin R, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Jintaworn S, Blacksell SD et al. 2017. Strong interferon-gamma mediated cellular immunity to scrub typhus demonstrated using a novel whole cell antigen ELISpot assay in rhesus macaques and humans. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 11 (9), pp. e0005846. | Show Abstract | Read more

Scrub typhus is a febrile infection caused by the obligate intracellular bacterium Orientia tsutsugamushi, which causes significant morbidity and mortality across the Asia-Pacific region. The control of this vector-borne disease is challenging due to humans being dead-end hosts, vertical maintenance of the pathogen in the vector itself, and a potentially large rodent reservoir of unclear significance, coupled with a lack of accurate diagnostic tests. Development of an effective vaccine is highly desirable. This however requires better characterization of the natural immune response of this neglected but important disease. Here we implement a novel IFN-γ ELISpot assay as a tool for studying O. tsutsugamushi induced cellular immune responses in an experimental scrub typhus rhesus macaque model and human populations. Whole cell antigen for O. tsutsugamushi (OT-WCA) was prepared by heat inactivation of Karp-strain bacteria. Rhesus macaques were infected intradermally with O. tsutsugamushi. Freshly isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from infected (n = 10) and uninfected animals (n = 5) were stimulated with OT-WCA, and IFN-γ secreting cells quantitated by ELISpot assay at five time points over 28 days. PBMC were then assayed from people in a scrub typhus-endemic region of Thailand (n = 105) and responses compared to those from a partially exposed population in a non-endemic region (n = 14), and to a naïve population in UK (n = 12). Mean results at Day 0 prior to O. tsutsugamushi infection were 12 (95% CI 0-25) and 15 (2-27) spot-forming cells (SFC)/106 PBMC for infected and control macaques respectively. Strong O. tsutsugamushi-specific IFN-γ responses were seen post infection, with ELISpot responses 20-fold higher than baseline at Day 7 (mean 235, 95% CI 200-270 SFC/106 PBMC), 105-fold higher at Day 14 (mean 1261, 95% CI 1,097-1,425 SFC/106 PBMC), 125-fold higher at Day 21 (mean 1,498, 95% CI 1,496-1,500 SFC/106 PBMC) and 118-fold higher at Day 28 (mean 1,416, 95% CI 1,306-1,527 SFC/106 PBMC). No significant change was found in the control group at any time point compared to baseline. Humans from a scrub typhus endemic region of Thailand had mean responses of 189 (95% CI 88-290) SFC/106 PBMC compared to mean responses of 40 (95% CI 9-71) SFC/106 PBMC in people from a non-endemic region and 3 (95% CI 0-7) SFC/106 PBMC in naïve controls. In summary, this highly sensitive assay will enable field immunogenicity studies and further characterization of the host response to O. tsutsugamushi, and provides a link between human and animal models to accelerate vaccine development.

Abdad MY, Abdallah RA, Karkouri KE, Beye M, Stenos J, Owen H, Unsworth N, Robertson I, Blacksell SD, Nguyen T-T et al. 2017. Rickettsia gravesii sp. nov.: a novel spotted fever group rickettsia in Western Australian Amblyomma triguttatum triguttatum ticks. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol, 67 (9), pp. 3156-3161. | Show Abstract | Read more

A rickettsial organism harboured by Amblyomma triguttatum ticks on Barrow Island, Western Australia, was discovered after reports of possible rickettsiosis among local workers. Subsequent isolation of this rickettsia (strain BWI-1) in cell culture and analysis of its phylogenetic, genotypic and phenotypic relationships with type strains of Rickettsia species with standing in nomenclature suggested that it was sufficiently divergent to warrant its classification as a new species. Multiple gene comparison of strain BWI-1 revealed degrees of sequence similarity with Rickettsia raoultii, its closest relative, of 99.58, 98.89, 97.03, 96.93 and 95.73 % for the 16S rRNA, citrate synthase, ompA, ompB and sca4 genes, respectively. Serotyping in mice also demonstrated that strain BWI-1T was distinct from Rickettsia raoultii. Thus, we propose the naming of a new species, Rickettsia gravesii sp. nov., based on its novel genotypic and phenotypic characteristics. Strain BWI-1T was deposited in the ATCC, CSUR and ARRL collections under reference numbers VR-1664, CSUR R172 and RGBWI-1, respectively.

Douangngeun B, Theppangna W, Phommachanh P, Chomdara K, Phiphakhavong S, Khounsy S, Mukaka M, Dance DAB, Blacksell SD. 2017. Rabies surveillance in dogs in Lao PDR from 2010-2016. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 11 (6), pp. e0005609. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Rabies is a fatal viral disease that continues to threaten both human and animal health in endemic countries. The Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is a rabies-endemic country in which dogs are the main reservoir and continue to present health risks for both human and animals throughout the country. METHODS: Passive, laboratory-based rabies surveillance was performed for suspected cases of dog rabies in Vientiane Capital during 2010-2016 and eight additional provinces between 2015-2016 using the Direct Fluorescent Antibody Test (DFAT). RESULTS: There were 284 rabies positive cases from 415 dog samples submitted for diagnosis. 257 cases were from Vientiane Capital (2010-2016) and the remaining 27 cases were submitted during 2015-2016 from Champassak (16 cases), Vientiane Province (4 cases), Xieng Kuang (3 cases), Luang Prabang (2 cases), Saravan (1 case), Saisomboun (1 case) and Bokeo (1 case). There was a significant increase in rabies cases during the dry season (p = 0.004) (November to April; i.e., <100mm of rainfall per month). No significant differences were noted between age, sex, locality of rabies cases. CONCLUSION: The use of laboratory-based rabies surveillance is a useful method of monitoring rabies in Lao PDR and should be expanded to other provincial centers, particularly where there are active rabies control programs.

Okello AL, Tiemann TT, Inthavong P, Khamlome B, Phengvilaysouk A, Keonouchanh S, Keokhamphet C, Somoulay V, Blaszak K, Blacksell SD et al. 2017. Integrating market chain assessments with zoonoses risk analysis in two cross-border pig value chains in Lao PDR. Asian-Australas J Anim Sci, 30 (11), pp. 1651-1659. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: Lao PDR's recent accession to the World Trade Organization necessitates a greater understanding of the patterns and risk of livestock production in order to better align national policy with the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. This eco-health study was conducted to improve understanding of the interrelations between market chains and zoonotic infection risks at two strategic cross border points between Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. METHODS: Information gained from smallholder farmer/trader interviews was integrated with serological surveys for pig-associated zoonoses-including hepatitis E virus (HEV), Taenia solium (T. solium) and trichinella-to identify potential linkages between disease risk and pig production and slaughter in low input systems common across the country. RESULTS: Trichinella and HEV exposure was high in both humans and pigs in both study areas, significantly associated with pig slaughter and the subsequent consumption and handling of raw pork products. T. solium demonstrated a strong geographical and ethnic association with the northern study area bordering Vietnam. With the right knowledge and accessible, affordable inputs, the majority of smallholder farmers indicated a willingness to invest more in pig production, which could simultaneously improve livelihoods and decrease exposure to HEV, Trichinella, and T. solium through increased access to formal markets and an improved slaughter processes. CONCLUSION: The linkages identified when assessing disease risk in the context of potential economic and cultural drivers of transmission highlight the importance of a systems-based approach for the detection and control of zoonotic disease, and contributes to an improved understanding of the Lao PDR livestock sector.

Sudarmono P, Aman AT, Arif M, Syarif AK, Kosasih H, Karyana M, Chotpitayasunondh T, Vandepitte WP, Boonyasiri A, Lapphra K et al. 2017. Causes and outcomes of sepsis in southeast Asia: a multinational multicentre cross-sectional study LANCET GLOBAL HEALTH, 5 (2), pp. E157-E167.

Sengvilaipaseuth O, Phommasone K, de Lamballerie X, Vongsouvath M, Phonemixay O, Blacksell SD, Mayxay M, Keomany S, Souvannasing P, Newton PN, Dubot-Pérès A. 2017. Temperature of a Dengue Rapid Diagnostic Test under Tropical Climatic Conditions: A Follow Up Study. PLoS One, 12 (1), pp. e0170359. | Show Abstract | Read more

The Dengue Duo Rapid Diagnostic Test (SD Dengue RDT) has good specificity and sensitivity for dengue diagnosis in rural tropical areas. In a previous study, using four control sera, we demonstrated that that the diagnostic accuracy of these RDTs remains stable after long-term storage at high temperatures. We extended this study by testing sera from 119 febrile patients collected between July-November 2012 at Salavan Provincial Hospital (southern Laos) with RDTs stored for 6 months at 4°C, 35° and in a hut (miniature traditional house) at Lao ambient temperatures. The dengue NS1 antigen results from RDTs stored at 35°C and in the hut demonstrated 100% agreement with those stored at 4°C. However, lower positive percent agreements, with broad 95%CI, were observed for the tests: IgM, 60% (14.7-94.7) and 40% (5.3-85.3) for RDTs store at 35°C and in the hut, compared to those stored at 4°C, respectively. This study strenghtens the evidence of the robustness of the NS1 antigen detection RDT for the diagnosis of dengue after storage at tropical temperatures.

Weitzel T, Dittrich S, López J, Phuklia W, Martinez-Valdebenito C, Velásquez K, Blacksell SD, Paris DH, Abarca K. 2016. Endemic Scrub Typhus in South America. N Engl J Med, 375 (10), pp. 954-961. | Show Abstract | Read more

Scrub typhus is a life-threatening zoonosis caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi organisms that are transmitted by the larvae of trombiculid mites. Endemic scrub typhus was originally thought to be confined to the so called "tsutsugamushi triangle" within the Asia-Pacific region. In 2006, however, two individual cases were detected in the Middle East and South America, which suggested that the pathogen was present farther afield. Here, we report three autochthonous cases of scrub typhus caused by O. tsutsugamushi acquired on Chiloé Island in southern Chile, which suggests the existence of an endemic focus in South America. (Funded by the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica and the Wellcome Trust.).

Whistler T, Kaewpan A, Blacksell SD. 2016. A Biological Safety Cabinet Certification Program: Experiences in Southeast Asia. Appl Biosaf, 21 (3), pp. 121-127. | Show Abstract | Read more

Biological safety cabinets (BSCs) are the primary means of containment used in laboratories worldwide for the safe handling of infectious microorganisms. They provide protection to the laboratory worker and the surrounding environment from pathogens. To ensure the correct functioning of BSCs, they need to be properly maintained beyond the daily care routines of the laboratory. This involves annual maintenance and certification by a qualified technician in accordance to the NSF/American National Standards Institute 49-2014 Biosafety Cabinetry: Design, Construction, Performance, and Field Certification. Service programs can be direct from the manufacturer or through third-party service companies, but in many instances, technicians are not accredited by international bodies, and these services are expensive. This means that a large number of BSCs may not be operating in a safe manner. In this article, we discuss our approach to addressing the lack of trained and qualified personnel in Thailand who can install, maintain, and certify BSCs in a cost-effective and practical manner. We initiated a program to create both local and regional capacity for repair, maintenance, and certification of BSCs and share our experiences with the reader.

Douangngeun B, Theppangna W, Soukvilay V, Senaphanh C, Phithacthep K, Phomhaksa S, Yingst S, Lombardini E, Hansson E, Selleck PW, Blacksell SD. 2016. Seroprevalence of Q Fever, Brucellosis, and Bluetongue in Selected Provinces in Lao People's Democratic Republic. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 95 (3), pp. 558-561. | Show Abstract | Read more

This study has determined the proportional seropositivity of two zoonotic diseases, Q fever and brucellosis, and bluetongue virus (BTV) which is nonzoonotic, in five provinces of Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) (Loungphabang, Luangnumtha, Xayaboury, Xiengkhouang, and Champasak, and Vientiane Province and Vientiane capital). A total of 1,089 samples from buffalo, cattle, pigs, and goats were tested, with seropositivity of BTV (96.7%), Q fever (1.2%), and brucellosis (0.3%). The results of this survey indicated that Q fever seropositivity is not widely distributed in Lao PDR; however, Xayaboury Province had a cluster of seropositive cattle in seven villages in four districts (Botan, Kenthao, Paklaiy, and Phiang) that share a border with Thailand. Further studies are required to determine if Xayaboury Province is indeed an epidemiological hot spot of Q fever activity. There is an urgent need to determine the levels of economic loss and human health-related issues caused by Q fever, brucellosis, and BTV in Lao PDR.

James SL, Blacksell SD, Nawtaisong P, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Smith DJ, Day NPJ, Paris DH. 2016. Antigenic Relationships among Human Pathogenic Orientia tsutsugamushi Isolates from Thailand. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 10 (6), pp. e0004723. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Scrub typhus is a common cause of undiagnosed febrile illness in certain tropical regions, but can be easily treated with antibiotics. The causative agent, Orientia tsutsugamushi, is antigenically variable which complicates diagnosis and efforts towards vaccine development. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: This study aimed to dissect the antigenic and genetic relatedness of O. tsutsugamushi strains and investigate sero-diagnostic reactivities by titrating individual patient sera against their O. tsutsugamushi isolates (whole-cell antigen preparation), in homologous and heterologous serum-isolate pairs from the same endemic region in NE Thailand. The indirect immunofluorescence assay was used to titrate Orientia tsutsugamushi isolates and human sera, and a mathematical technique, antigenic cartography, was applied to these data to visualise the antigenic differences and cross-reactivity between strains and sera. No functional or antigen-specific analyses were performed. The antigenic variation found in clinical isolates was much less pronounced than the genetic differences found in the 56kDa type-specific antigen genes. The Karp-like sera were more broadly reactive than the Gilliam-like sera. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Antigenic cartography worked well with scrub typhus indirect immunofluorescence titres. The data from humoral responses suggest that a Karp-like strain would provide broader antibody cross-reactivity than a Gilliam-like strain. Although previous exposure to O. tsutsugamushi could not be ruled out, scrub typhus patient serum antibody responses were characterised by strong homologous, but weak heterologous antibody titres, with little evidence for cross-reactivity by Gilliam-like sera, but a broader response from some Karp-like sera. This work highlights the importance of antigenic variation in O. tsutsugamushi diagnosis and determination of new serotypes.

Vongsouvath M, Phommasone K, Sengvilaipaseuth O, Kosoltanapiwat N, Chantratita N, Blacksell SD, Lee SJ, de Lamballerie X, Mayxay M, Keomany S et al. 2016. Using Rapid Diagnostic Tests as a Source of Viral RNA for Dengue Serotyping by RT-PCR - A Novel Epidemiological Tool. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 10 (5), pp. e0004704. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Dengue virus infection causes major public health problems in tropical and subtropical areas. In many endemic areas, including the Lao PDR, inadequate access to laboratory facilities is a major obstacle to surveillance and study of dengue epidemiology. Filter paper is widely used for blood collection for subsequent laboratory testing for antibody and nucleic acid detection. For the first time, we demonstrate that dengue viral RNA can be extracted from dengue rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) and then submitted to real-time RT-PCR for serotyping. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We evaluated the Standard Diagnostics (SD) Bioline Dengue Duo RDT, a commonly used test in dengue endemic areas. First, using the QIAamp RNA kit, dengue RNA was purified from the sample pad of the NS1 RDT loaded with virus isolates of the four serotypes, then quantified by RT-PCR. We observed greater recovery of virus, with a mean of 27 times more RNA recovered from RDT, than from filter paper. Second, we evaluated dengue NS1 RDTs from patients at Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, (99 patients) and from rural Salavan Provincial Hospital (362 patients). There was good agreement between dengue RT-PCR from NS1 RDT with RT-PCR performed on RNA extracted from patient sera, either using RDT loaded with blood (82.8% and 91.4%, in Vientiane and Salavan, respectively) or serum (91.9% and 93.9%). There was 100% concordance between RDT and serum RT-PCR of infecting dengue serotype. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Therefore, the collection of NS1 positive RDTs, which do not require cold storage, may be a novel approach for dengue serotyping by RT-PCR and offers promising prospects for the collection of epidemiological data from previously inaccessible tropical areas to aid surveillance and public health interventions.

Holt HR, Inthavong P, Khamlome B, Blaszak K, Keokamphe C, Somoulay V, Phongmany A, Durr PA, Graham K, Allen J et al. 2016. Endemicity of Zoonotic Diseases in Pigs and Humans in Lowland and Upland Lao PDR: Identification of Socio-cultural Risk Factors. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 10 (4), pp. e0003913. | Show Abstract | Read more

In Lao People's Democratic Republic pigs are kept in close contact with families. Human risk of infection with pig zoonoses arises from direct contact and consumption of unsafe pig products. This cross-sectional study was conducted in Luang Prabang (north) and Savannakhet (central-south) Provinces. A total of 59 villages, 895 humans and 647 pigs were sampled and serologically tested for zoonotic pathogens including: hepatitis E virus (HEV), Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and Trichinella spiralis; In addition, human sera were tested for Taenia spp. and cysticercosis. Seroprevalence of zoonotic pathogens in humans was high for HEV (Luang Prabang: 48.6%, Savannakhet: 77.7%) and T. spiralis (Luang Prabang: 59.0%, Savannakhet: 40.5%), and lower for JEV (around 5%), Taenia spp. (around 3%) and cysticercosis (Luang Prabang: 6.1, Savannakhet 1.5%). Multiple correspondence analysis and hierarchical clustering of principal components was performed on descriptive data of human hygiene practices, contact with pigs and consumption of pork products. Three clusters were identified: Cluster 1 had low pig contact and good hygiene practices, but had higher risk of T. spiralis. Most people in cluster 2 were involved in pig slaughter (83.7%), handled raw meat or offal (99.4%) and consumed raw pigs' blood (76.4%). Compared to cluster 1, cluster 2 had increased odds of testing seropositive for HEV and JEV. Cluster 3 had the lowest sanitation access and had the highest risk of HEV, cysticercosis and Taenia spp. Farmers which kept their pigs tethered (as opposed to penned) and disposed of manure in water sources had 0.85 (95% CI: 0.18 to 0.91) and 2.39 (95% CI: 1.07 to 5.34) times the odds of having pigs test seropositive for HEV, respectively. The results have been used to identify entry-points for intervention and management strategies to reduce disease exposure in humans and pigs, informing control activities in a cysticercosis hyper-endemic village.

Chansamouth V, Thammasack S, Phetsouvanh R, Keoluangkot V, Moore CE, Blacksell SD, Castonguay-Vanier J, Dubot-Pérès A, Tangkhabuanbutra J, Tongyoo N et al. 2016. The Aetiologies and Impact of Fever in Pregnant Inpatients in Vientiane, Laos. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 10 (4), pp. e0004577. | Show Abstract | Read more

INTRODUCTION: Laos has the highest maternal mortality ratio in mainland Southeast Asia and a high incidence of infectious diseases. Globally, malaria has been the pathogen most intensively investigated in relation to impact on pregnancy, but there has been relatively little research on the aetiology and impact of other diseases. We therefore aimed to determine the causes and impact of fever in pregnant women admitted to two central hospitals in Vientiane City, Lao PDR (Laos). MATERIALS AND METHODS: This hospital-based prospective study was conducted in Mahosot Hospital and the Mother and Child Hospital, Vientiane, between 2006 and 2010, with the aim to recruit 250 consenting pregnant women admitted with tympanic temperature ≥37.5°C. Primary outcome was the cause of fever and secondary outcomes were pregnancy outcomes. Specific investigations (culture, antigen, molecular and serological tests) were performed to investigate causes of fever. After discharge, all pregnant women were asked to return for review and convalescence serum on day 10-14 and were monitored until delivery. PRINCIPLE FINDINGS: 250 pregnant women were recruited to this study between February 2006 and November 2010. Fifty percent were pregnant for the first time. Their median (range) gestational age on admission was 24 (4-43) weeks. The median (range) tympanic admission temperature was 38.5°C (37.5-40.5°C). Fifteen percent of patients stated that they had taken antibiotics before admission. Headache, myalgia, back pain and arthralgia were described by >60% of patients and 149 (60%) were given a laboratory diagnosis. Of those with confirmed diagnoses, 132 (53%) had a single disease and 17 (7%) had apparent mixed diseases. Among those who had a single disease, dengue fever was the most common diagnosis, followed by pyelonephritis, scrub typhus, murine typhus and typhoid. Patients were also diagnosed with tuberculosis, appendicitis, Staphylococcus aureus septicemia, leptospirosis, Japanese encephalitis virus infection and Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Severe consequences, including maternal death, miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and preterm birth, were found among 28 (78%) mothers with dengue fever, rickettsioses and typhoid. CONCLUSION: Fevers other than malaria, such as dengue, pyelonephritis, rickettsioses and typhoid are common causes of fever during pregnancy in the Asian tropics. Further investigations of their impact in the community on maternal death, fetal loss, vertical transmission, low birth weight and preterm birth are needed.

Blacksell SD, Lim C, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Jintaworn S, Kantipong P, Richards AL, Paris DH, Limmathurotsakul D, Day NPJ. 2016. Optimal Cutoff and Accuracy of an IgM Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay for Diagnosis of Acute Scrub Typhus in Northern Thailand: an Alternative Reference Method to the IgM Immunofluorescence Assay. J Clin Microbiol, 54 (6), pp. 1472-1478. | Show Abstract | Read more

The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) has been proposed as an alternative serologic diagnostic test to the indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA) for scrub typhus. Here, we systematically determine the optimal sample dilution and cutoff optical density (OD) and estimate the accuracy of IgM ELISA using Bayesian latent class models (LCMs). Data from 135 patients with undifferentiated fever were reevaluated using Bayesian LCMs. Every patient was evaluated for the presence of an eschar and tested with a blood culture for Orientia tsutsugamushi, three different PCR assays, and an IgM IFA. The IgM ELISA was performed for every sample at sample dilutions from 1:100 to 1:102,400 using crude whole-cell antigens of the Karp, Kato, and Gilliam strains of O. tsutsugamushi developed by the Naval Medical Research Center. We used Bayesian LCMs to generate unbiased receiver operating characteristic curves and found that the sample dilution of 1:400 was optimal for the IgM ELISA. With the optimal cutoff OD of 1.474 at a sample dilution of 1:400, the IgM ELISA had a sensitivity of 85.7% (95% credible interval [CrI], 77.4% to 86.7%) and a specificity of 98.1% (95% CrI, 97.2% to 100%) using paired samples. For the ELISA, the OD could be determined objectively and quickly, in contrast to the reading of IFA slides, which was both subjective and labor-intensive. The IgM ELISA for scrub typhus has high diagnostic accuracy and is less subjective than the IgM IFA. We suggest that the IgM ELISA may be used as an alternative reference test to the IgM IFA for the serological diagnosis of scrub typhus.

Carter MJ, Emary KR, Moore CE, Parry CM, Sona S, Putchhat H, Reaksmey S, Chanpheaktra N, Stoesser N, Dobson ADM et al. 2016. Correction: Rapid Diagnostic Tests for Dengue Virus Infection in Febrile Cambodian Children: Diagnostic Accuracy and Incorporation into Diagnostic Algorithms. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 10 (2), pp. e0004453. | Read more

Lubell Y, Althaus T, Blacksell SD, Paris DH, Mayxay M, Pan-Ngum W, White LJ, Day NPJ, Newton PN. 2016. Modelling the Impact and Cost-Effectiveness of Biomarker Tests as Compared with Pathogen-Specific Diagnostics in the Management of Undifferentiated Fever in Remote Tropical Settings. PLoS One, 11 (3), pp. e0152420. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Malaria accounts for a small fraction of febrile cases in increasingly large areas of the malaria endemic world. Point-of-care tests to improve the management of non-malarial fevers appropriate for primary care are few, consisting of either diagnostic tests for specific pathogens or testing for biomarkers of host response that indicate whether antibiotics might be required. The impact and cost-effectiveness of these approaches are relatively unexplored and methods to do so are not well-developed. METHODS: We model the ability of dengue and scrub typhus rapid tests to inform antibiotic treatment, as compared with testing for elevated C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a biomarker of host-inflammation. Using data on causes of fever in rural Laos, we estimate the proportion of outpatients that would be correctly classified as requiring an antibiotic and the likely cost-effectiveness of the approaches. RESULTS: Use of either pathogen-specific test slightly increased the proportion of patients correctly classified as requiring antibiotics. CRP testing was consistently superior to the pathogen-specific tests, despite heterogeneity in causes of fever. All testing strategies are likely to result in higher average costs, but only the scrub typhus and CRP tests are likely to be cost-effective when considering direct health benefits, with median cost per disability adjusted life year averted of approximately $48 USD and $94 USD, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Testing for viral infections is unlikely to be cost-effective when considering only direct health benefits to patients. Testing for prevalent bacterial pathogens can be cost-effective, having the benefit of informing not only whether treatment is required, but also as to the most appropriate antibiotic; this advantage, however, varies widely in response to heterogeneity in causes of fever. Testing for biomarkers of host inflammation is likely to be consistently cost-effective despite high heterogeneity, and can also offer substantial reductions in over-use of antimicrobials in viral infections.

Blacksell SD, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Nawtaisong P, Kantipong P, Laongnualpanich A, Day NPJ, Paris DH. 2015. Diagnostic Accuracy of the InBios Scrub Typhus Detect Enzyme-Linked Immunoassay for the Detection of IgM Antibodies in Northern Thailand. Clin Vaccine Immunol, 23 (2), pp. 148-154. | Show Abstract | Read more

In this study, we examined the diagnostic accuracy of the InBios Scrub Typhus Detect IgM enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and determined the optimal diagnostic optical density (OD) cutoffs for screening and diagnostic applications based on prospectively collected, characterized samples from undifferentiated febrile illness patients in northern Thailand. Direct comparisons with the serological gold standard, indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA), revealed strong statistical correlation of ELISA OD values and IFA IgM titers. Determination of the optimal ELISA cutoff for seroepidemiology or screening purposes compared to the corresponding IFA reciprocal titer of 400 as previously described for Thailand was 0.60 OD, which corresponded to a sensitivity (Sn) of 84% and a specificity (Sp) of 98%. The diagnostic performance against the improved and more-stringent scrub typhus infection criteria (STIC), correcting for low false-positive IFA titers, resulted in an Sn of 93% and an Sp of 91% at an ELISA cutoff of 0.5 OD. This diagnostic ELISA cutoff corresponds to IFA reciprocal titers of 1,600 to 3,200, which greatly reduces the false-positive rates associated with low-positive IFA titers. These data are in congruence with the recently improved serodiagnostic positivity criteria using the Bayesian latent class modeling approach. In summary, the InBios Scrub Typhus Detect IgM ELISA is affordable and easy-to-use, with adequate diagnostic accuracy for screening and diagnostic purposes, and should be considered an improved alternative to the gold standard IFA for acute diagnosis. For broader application, regional cutoff validation and antigenic composition for consistent diagnostic accuracy should be considered.

Watthanaworawit W, Turner P, Turner C, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Jintaworn S, Hanboonkunupakarn B, Richards AL, Day NPJ, Blacksell SD, Nosten F. 2015. Diagnostic Accuracy Assessment of Immunochromatographic Tests for the Rapid Detection of Antibodies Against Orientia tsutsugamushi Using Paired Acute and Convalescent Specimens. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 93 (6), pp. 1168-1171. | Show Abstract | Read more

We assessed the diagnostic accuracy of two immunochromatographic tests (ICTs), the Access Bio CareStart Scrub Typhus test (Somerset, NJ) (IgM), and the SD BIOLINE Tsutsugamushi test (Kyonggi-do, Republic of Korea) (IgG, IgM, or IgA) compared with indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA) and real-time PCR results as reference tests using 86 paired acute and convalescent specimens from febrile patients. The sensitivity and specificity of the CareStart test were 23.3% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 11.8-38.6) and 81.4% (95% CI: 66.6-91.6), respectively, for acute specimens and 32.6% (95% CI: 19.1-48.5) and 79.1% (95% CI: 64.0-90.0), respectively, for convalescent specimens. For the SD BIOLINE test, sensitivity and specificity were 20.9% (95% CI: 10.0-36.0) and 74.4% (95% CI: 58.8-86.5), respectively, for acute specimens and 76.7% (95% CI: 61.4-88.2) and 76.7% (95% CI: 61.4-88.2), respectively, for convalescent specimens. The poor sensitivity obtained for both ICTs during this study when performed on acute specimens highlights the difficulties in prompt diagnosis of scrub typhus.

Lubell Y, Blacksell SD, Dunachie S, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Althaus T, Watthanaworawit W, Paris DH, Mayxay M, Peto TJ, Dondorp AM et al. 2015. Performance of C-reactive protein and procalcitonin to distinguish viral from bacterial and malarial causes of fever in Southeast Asia. BMC Infect Dis, 15 (1), pp. 511. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Poor targeting of antimicrobial drugs contributes to the millions of deaths each year from malaria, pneumonia, and other tropical infectious diseases. While malaria rapid diagnostic tests have improved use of antimalarial drugs, there are no similar tests to guide the use of antibiotics in undifferentiated fevers. In this study we estimate the diagnostic accuracy of two well established biomarkers of bacterial infection, procalcitonin and C-reactive protein (CRP) in discriminating between common viral and bacterial infections in malaria endemic settings of Southeast Asia. METHODS: Serum procalcitonin and CRP levels were measured in stored serum samples from febrile patients enrolled in three prospective studies conducted in Cambodia, Laos and, Thailand. Of the 1372 patients with a microbiologically confirmed diagnosis, 1105 had a single viral, bacterial or malarial infection. Procalcitonin and CRP levels were compared amongst these aetiological groups and their sensitivity and specificity in distinguishing bacterial infections and bacteraemias from viral infections were estimated using standard thresholds. RESULTS: Serum concentrations of both biomarkers were significantly higher in bacterial infections and malaria than in viral infections. The AUROC for CRP in discriminating between bacterial and viral infections was 0.83 (0.81-0.86) compared with 0.74 (0.71-0.77) for procalcitonin (p < 0.0001). This relative advantage was evident in all sites and when stratifying patients by age and admission status. For CRP at a threshold of 10 mg/L, the sensitivity of detecting bacterial infections was 95% with a specificity of 49%. At a threshold of 20 mg/L sensitivity was 86% with a specificity of 67%. For procalcitonin at a low threshold of 0.1 ng/mL the sensitivity was 90% with a specificity of 39%. At a higher threshold of 0.5 ng/ul sensitivity was 60% with a specificity of 76%. CONCLUSION: In samples from febrile patients with mono-infections from rural settings in Southeast Asia, CRP was a highly sensitive and moderately specific biomarker for discriminating between viral and bacterial infections. Use of a CRP rapid test in peripheral health settings could potentially be a simple and affordable measure to better identify patients in need of antibacterial treatment and part of a global strategy to combat the emergence of antibiotic resistance.

Dittrich S, Panyanivong P, Thongpaseuth S, Paris DH, Blacksell SD, Phetsouvanh R, Newton PN. 2015. HOW TO OPTIMALLY DIAGNOSE ORIENTIA TSUTSUGAMUSHI OR RICKETTSIA TYPHI INFECTIONS IN PATIENTS WITH CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM DISEASE? AMERICAN JOURNAL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AND HYGIENE, 93 (4), pp. 162-163.

Conlan JV, Vongxay K, Khamlome B, Jarman RG, Gibbons RV, Fenwick SG, Thompson RCA, Blacksell SD. 2015. Patterns of Flavivirus Seroprevalence in the Human Population of Northern Laos. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 93 (5), pp. 1010-1013. | Show Abstract | Read more

A total of 1,136 samples from 289 households in four provinces in northern Laos were subjected to Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and dengue virus hemagglutination inhibition (DENV HI). Overall, antibodies to JEV were detected by HI in 620 (54.6%) of 1,136 people; of which 217 (19.1%) had HI activity against JEV only. Antibodies to DENV4 were detected by HI in 526 (46.3%) of 1,136 people; of which 124 (10.9%) had HI activity against DENV4 only. Antibodies to DENV1-3 were detected by HI in 296 (26.1%), 274 (24.1%), and 283 (24.9) of 1,136 people, respectively; of which 7, 1, and 0, respectively, had HI activity against DENV1-3 only. JEV was the most prevalent Flavivirus in Oudomxay, Luangprabang, and Huaphan provinces and DENV4 was the most prevalent in Xiengkhouang province. Seroprevalence for JEV increased with increasing age and wealth and was higher in villages where rice was cultivated in paddy fields and highest for people of Lao-Tai ethnicity.

Kingston HWF, Blacksell SD, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Laongnualpanich A, Basnyat B, Day NPJ, Paris DH. 2015. Comparative Accuracy of the InBios Scrub Typhus Detect IgM Rapid Test for the Detection of IgM Antibodies by Using Conventional Serology. Clin Vaccine Immunol, 22 (10), pp. 1130-1132. | Show Abstract | Read more

This study investigated the comparative accuracy of a recombinant 56-kDa type-specific antigen-based rapid diagnostic test (RDT) for scrub typhus for the detection of IgM antibodies by using conventional serology in well-characterized serum samples from undifferentiated febrile illness patients. The RDT showed high specificity and promising comparative accuracy, with 82% sensitivity and 98% specificity for samples defined positive at an IgM indirect immunofluorescence assay positivity cutoff titer of ≥1:1,600 versus 92% and 95% at ≥1:6,400, respectively.

Giengkam S, Blakes A, Utsahajit P, Chaemchuen S, Atwal S, Blacksell SD, Paris DH, Day NPJ, Salje J. 2015. Improved Quantification, Propagation, Purification and Storage of the Obligate Intracellular Human Pathogen Orientia tsutsugamushi. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 9 (8), pp. e0004009. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Scrub typhus is a leading cause of serious febrile illness in rural Southeast Asia. The causative agent, Orientia tsutsugamushi, is an obligate intracellular bacterium that is transmitted to humans by the bite of a Leptotrombidium mite. Research into the basic mechanisms of cell biology and pathogenicity of O. tsutsugamushi has lagged behind that of other important human pathogens. One reason for this is that O. tsutsugamushi is an obligate intracellular bacterium that can only be cultured in mammalian cells and that requires specific methodologies for propagation and analysis. Here, we have performed a body of work designed to improve methods for quantification, propagation, purification and long-term storage of this important but neglected human pathogen. These results will be useful to other researchers working on O. tsutsugamushi and also other obligate intracellular pathogens such as those in the Rickettsiales and Chlamydiales families. METHODOLOGY: A clinical isolate of O. tsutsugamushi was grown in cultured mouse embryonic fibroblast (L929) cells. Bacterial growth was measured using an O. tsutsugamushi-specific qPCR assay. Conditions leading to improvements in viability and growth were monitored in terms of the effect on bacterial cell number after growth in cultured mammalian cells. KEY RESULTS: Development of a standardised growth assay to quantify bacterial replication and viability in vitro. Quantitative comparison of different DNA extraction methods. Quantification of the effect on growth of FBS concentration, daunorubicin supplementation, media composition, host cell confluence at infection and frequency of media replacement. Optimisation of bacterial purification including a comparison of host cell lysis methods, purification temperature, bacterial yield calculations and bacterial pelleting at different centrifugation speeds. Quantification of bacterial viability loss after long term storage and freezing under a range of conditions including different freezing buffers and different rates of freezing. CONCLUSIONS: Here we present a standardised method for comparing the viability of O. tsutsugamushi after purification, treatment and propagation under various conditions. Taken together, we present a body of data to support improved techniques for propagation, purification and storage of this organism. This data will be useful both for improving clinical isolation rates as well as performing in vitro cell biology experiments.

Phommasone K, Sengvilaipaseuth O, de Lamballerie X, Vongsouvath M, Phonemixay O, Blacksell SD, Newton PN, Dubot-Pérès A. 2015. Temperature and the field stability of a dengue rapid diagnostic test in the tropics. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 93 (1), pp. 33-39. | Show Abstract | Read more

The global incidence of dengue has increased significantly in recent decades, resulting in a large public health burden in tropical and subtropical countries. Dengue rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) can provide accurate, rapid accessible diagnosis for patient management and may be easily used by health workers in rural areas. However, in dengue-endemic areas, ambient temperatures are often higher than manufacturer's recommendation. We therefore evaluated the effect of high temperature over time on the performance of one commonly used dengue RDT, the Standard Diagnostics Bioline Dengue Duo. RDTs were kept in five different conditions (at 4°C, 35°C, 45°C, 60°C, and at fluctuant ambient temperatures in a free-standing hut) for between 2 days and 2 years in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR). RDTs were tested with four control sera (negative, dengue nonstructural protein 1 [NS1], anti-dengue immunoglobulin [Ig] M, and anti-dengue IgG positive). The RDTs had 100% consistency over the 2-year study, despite high temperatures, including in the hut in which temperatures exceeded the manufacturer's recommendations for 29% of time points. These data suggest that the diagnostic accuracy of the SD Bioline Dengue Duo RDT remains stable even after long-term storage at high temperatures. Therefore, use at such ambient temperatures in tropical areas should not jeopardize the dengue diagnostic outcome.

Blacksell SD, Kantipong P, Watthanaworawit W, Turner C, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Jintawon S, Laongnuanutit A, Nosten FH, Day NPJ, Paris DH, Richards AL. 2015. Underrecognized arthropod-borne and zoonotic pathogens in northern and northwestern Thailand: serological evidence and opportunities for awareness. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis, 15 (5), pp. 285-290. | Show Abstract | Read more

Although scrub typhus and murine typhus are well-described tropical rickettsial illnesses, especially in Southeast Asia, only limited evidence is available for rickettsia-like pathogens contributing to the burden of undifferentiated febrile illness. Using commercially available kits, this study measured immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody seroprevalence for Coxiella burnetii, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Bartonella henselae, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and spotted fever group rickettsiae (SFGR) in 375 patients enrolled in undifferentiated febrile illness studies at Chiangrai (northern Thailand) and Mae Sot (Thai-Myanmar border). Ehrlichia and SFGR were the most common causes of IgG seropositivity. A distinct relationship between age and seropositivity was found in Chiangrai with acquisition of IgG titers against Ehrlichia, Bartonella, Anaplasma, and SFGR in young adulthood, suggesting cumulative exposure to these pathogens. At Mae Sot, high early IgG titers against Ehrlichia and SFGR were common, whereas Anaplasma and Bartonella IgG titers increased at 50-60 years. Q fever associated with low IgG positivity at both study sites, with significantly higher prevalence at 30 years of age in Chiangrai. These data suggest that other rickettsial illnesses could contribute to the burden of febrile illness in Thailand and possibly adjacent regions. Improved diagnostics and better understanding of antibody longevity and cross-reactivity will improve identification and management of these easily treatable infectious diseases.

Okello AL, Burniston S, Conlan JV, Inthavong P, Khamlome B, Welburn SC, Gilbert J, Allen J, Blacksell SD. 2015. Prevalence of Endemic Pig-Associated Zoonoses in Southeast Asia: A Review of Findings from the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 92 (5), pp. 1059-1066. | Show Abstract | Read more

The increasing intensification of pork production in southeast Asia necessitates an urgent requirement to better understand the dual impact of pig-associated zoonotic disease on both pig production and human health in the region. Sharing porous borders with five countries and representing many regional ethnicities and agricultural practices, the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) appears well placed to gauge the levels of pig-associated zoonoses circulating in the wider region. Despite this, little is known about the true impact of zoonotic pathogens such as leptospirosis, Trichinella, hepatitis E virus (HEV), Japanese encephalitis (JE), and Taenia solium on human health and livestock production in the country. A comprehensive review of the published prevalences of these five pig-associated zoonoses in Lao PDR has demonstrated that although suspicion remains high of their existence in pig reservoirs across the country, epidemiological data are scarce; only 31 epidemiological studies have been undertaken on these diseases in the past 25 years. A greater understanding of the zoonoses prevalence and subsequent risks associated with pork production in the southeast Asian region could help focus public health and food safety interventions at key points along the value chain, benefiting both livestock producers and the broader animal and human health systems in the region.

Burniston S, Okello AL, Khamlome B, Inthavong P, Gilbert J, Blacksell SD, Allen J, Welburn SC. 2015. Cultural drivers and health-seeking behaviours that impact on the transmission of pig-associated zoonoses in Lao People's Democratic Republic. Infect Dis Poverty, 4 (1), pp. 11. | Show Abstract | Read more

Pig rearing is an important income source in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), with many smallholder farmers using traditional free-range pig production systems. Despite the potentially significant health risks posed by pig production regarding pig-associated zoonoses, information on the sociocultural drivers of these zoonoses is significantly lacking. This review summarises the existing sociocultural knowledge on eight pig-associated zoonoses suspected to be endemic in Southeast Asia: brucellosis, Q fever (Coxiella burnetii), trichinellosis, hepatitis E virus, leptospirosis, Japanese encephalitis, Streptococcus suis and Taenia solium taeniasis-cysticercosis. It summarises current knowledge on these diseases grouped according to their clinical manifestations in humans to highlight the propensity for underreporting. A literature search was conducted across multiple databases for publications from 1990 to the present day related to the eight pig-associated zoonoses and the risk and impact connected with them, with Lao PDR as a case study. Many of these pig-associated zoonoses have similar presentations and are often diagnosed as clinical syndromes. Misdiagnosis and underreporting are, therefore, substantial and emphasise the need for more robust diagnostics and appropriate surveillance systems. While some reports exist in other countries in the region, information is significantly lacking in Lao PDR with existing information coming mainly from the capital, Vientiane. The disease burden imposed by these zoonoses is not only characterised by morbidity and mortality, but directly impacts on livelihoods through income reduction and production losses, and indirectly through treatment costs and lost work opportunities. Other factors crucial to understanding and controlling these diseases are the influence of ethnicity and culture on food-consumption practices, pig rearing and slaughter practices, hygiene and sanitation, health-seeking behaviours and, therefore, risk factors for disease transmission. Published information on the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs of people regarding pig zoonoses and their risk factors is also extremely limited in Lao PDR and the broader Southeast Asian region. The need for more transdisciplinary research, using a One Health approach, in order to understand the underlining social determinants of health and their impacts on health-seeking behaviours, disease transmission and, ultimately, disease reporting, cannot be more emphasized.

Burniston S, Okello AL, Khamlome B, Inthavong P, Gilbert J, Blacksell SD, Allen J, Welburn SC. 2015. Cultural drivers and health-seeking behaviours that impact on the transmission of pig-associated zoonoses in Lao People's Democratic Republic Infectious Diseases of Poverty, 4 (1), | Show Abstract | Read more

© 2015 Burniston et al.; licensee BioMed Central. Pig rearing is an important income source in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), with many smallholder farmers using traditional free-range pig production systems. Despite the potentially significant health risks posed by pig production regarding pig-associated zoonoses, information on the sociocultural drivers of these zoonoses is significantly lacking. This review summarises the existing sociocultural knowledge on eight pig-associated zoonoses suspected to be endemic in Southeast Asia: brucellosis, Q fever (Coxiella burnetii), trichinellosis, hepatitis E virus, leptospirosis, Japanese encephalitis, Streptococcus suis and Taenia solium taeniasis-cysticercosis. It summarises current knowledge on these diseases grouped according to their clinical manifestations in humans to highlight the propensity for underreporting. A literature search was conducted across multiple databases for publications from 1990 to the present day related to the eight pig-associated zoonoses and the risk and impact connected with them, with Lao PDR as a case study. Many of these pig-associated zoonoses have similar presentations and are often diagnosed as clinical syndromes. Misdiagnosis and underreporting are, therefore, substantial and emphasise the need for more robust diagnostics and appropriate surveillance systems. While some reports exist in other countries in the region, information is significantly lacking in Lao PDR with existing information coming mainly from the capital, Vientiane. The disease burden imposed by these zoonoses is not only characterised by morbidity and mortality, but directly impacts on livelihoods through income reduction and production losses, and indirectly through treatment costs and lost work opportunities. Other factors crucial to understanding and controlling these diseases are the influence of ethnicity and culture on food-consumption practices, pig rearing and slaughter practices, hygiene and sanitation, health-seeking behaviours and, therefore, risk factors for disease transmission. Published information on the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs of people regarding pig zoonoses and their risk factors is also extremely limited in Lao PDR and the broader Southeast Asian region. The need for more transdisciplinary research, using a One Health approach, in order to understand the underlining social determinants of health and their impacts on health-seeking behaviours, disease transmission and, ultimately, disease reporting, cannot be more emphasized.

Thompson CN, Blacksell SD, Paris DH, Arjyal A, Karkey A, Dongol S, Giri A, Dolecek C, Day N, Baker S et al. 2015. Undifferentiated febrile illness in Kathmandu, Nepal. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 92 (4), pp. 875-878. | Show Abstract | Read more

Undifferentiated febrile illnesses (UFIs) are common in low- and middle-income countries. We prospectively investigated the causes of UFIs in 627 patients presenting to a tertiary referral hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal. Patients with microbiologically confirmed enteric fever (218 of 627; 34.8%) randomized to gatifloxacin or ofloxacin treatment were previously reported. We randomly selected 125 of 627 (20%) of these UFI patients, consisting of 96 of 409 (23%) cases with sterile blood cultures and 29 of 218 (13%) cases with enteric fever, for additional diagnostic investigations. We found serological evidence of acute murine typhus in 21 of 125 (17%) patients, with 12 of 21 (57%) patients polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-positive for Rickettsia typhi. Three UFI cases were quantitative PCR-positive for Rickettsia spp., two UFI cases were seropositive for Hantavirus, and one UFI case was seropositive for Q fever. Fever clearance time (FCT) for rickettsial infection was 44.5 hours (interquartile range = 26-66 hours), and there was no difference in FCT between ofloxacin or gatifloxacin. Murine typhus represents an important cause of predominantly urban UFIs in Nepal, and fluoroquinolones seem to be an effective empirical treatment.

Dittrich S, Rattanavong S, Lee SJ, Panyanivong P, Craig SB, Tulsiani SM, Blacksell SD, Dance DAB, Dubot-Pérès A, Sengduangphachanh A et al. 2015. Orientia, rickettsia, and leptospira pathogens as causes of CNS infections in Laos: a prospective study. Lancet Glob Health, 3 (2), pp. e104-e112. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Scrub typhus (caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi), murine typhus (caused by Rickettsia typhi), and leptospirosis are common causes of febrile illness in Asia; meningitis and meningoencephalitis are severe complications. However, scarce data exist for the burden of these pathogens in patients with CNS disease in endemic countries. Laos is representative of vast economically poor rural areas in Asia with little medical information to guide public health policy. We assessed whether these pathogens are important causes of CNS infections in Laos. METHODS: Between Jan 10, 2003, and Nov 25, 2011, we enrolled 1112 consecutive patients of all ages admitted with CNS symptoms or signs requiring a lumbar puncture at Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, Laos. Microbiological examinations (culture, PCR, and serology) targeted so-called conventional bacterial infections (Streptococcus pneumoniae, Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae, S suis) and O tsutsugamushi, Rickettsia typhi/Rickettsia spp, and Leptospira spp infections in blood or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). We analysed and compared causes and clinical and CSF characteristics between patient groups. FINDINGS: 1051 (95%) of 1112 patients who presented had CSF available for analysis, of whom 254 (24%) had a CNS infection attributable to a bacterial or fungal pathogen. 90 (35%) of these 254 infections were caused by O tsutsugamushi, R typhi/Rickettsia spp, or Leptospira spp. These pathogens were significantly more frequent than conventional bacterial infections (90/1051 [9%] vs 42/1051 [4%]; p<0·0001) by use of conservative diagnostic definitions. CNS infections had a high mortality (236/876 [27%]), with 18% (13/71) for R typhi/Rickettsia spp, O tsutsugamushi, and Leptospira spp combined, and 33% (13/39) for conventional bacterial infections (p=0·076). INTERPRETATION: Our data suggest that R typhi/Rickettsia spp, O tsutsugamushi, and Leptospira spp infections are important causes of CNS infections in Laos. Antibiotics, such as tetracyclines, needed for the treatment of murine typhus and scrub typhus, are not routinely advised for empirical treatment of CNS infections. These severely neglected infections represent a potentially large proportion of treatable CNS disease burden across vast endemic areas and need more attention. FUNDING: Wellcome Trust UK.

Paris DH, Chattopadhyay S, Jiang J, Nawtaisong P, Lee JS, Tan E, Dela Cruz E, Burgos J, Abalos R, Blacksell SD et al. 2015. A nonhuman primate scrub typhus model: protective immune responses induced by pKarp47 DNA vaccination in cynomolgus macaques. J Immunol, 194 (4), pp. 1702-1716. | Show Abstract | Read more

We developed an intradermal (ID) challenge cynomolgus macaque (Macaca fascicularis) model of scrub typhus, the leading cause of treatable undifferentiated febrile illness in tropical Asia, caused by the obligate intracellular bacterium, Orientia tsutsugamushi. A well-characterized animal model is required for the development of clinically relevant diagnostic assays and evaluation of therapeutic agents and candidate vaccines. We investigated scrub typhus disease pathophysiology and evaluated two O. tsutsugamushi 47-kDa, Ag-based candidate vaccines, a DNA plasmid vaccine (pKarp47), and a virus-vectored vaccine (Kp47/47-Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus replicon particle) for safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy against homologous ID challenge with O. tsutsugamushi Karp. Control cynomolgus macaques developed fever, classic eschars, lymphadenopathy, bacteremia, altered liver function, increased WBC counts, pathogen-specific Ab (IgM and IgG), and cell-mediated immune responses. Vaccinated macaques receiving the DNA plasmid pKarp47 vaccine had significantly increased O. tsutsugamushi-specific, IFN-γ-producing PBMCs (p = 0.04), reduced eschar frequency and bacteremia duration (p ≤ 0.01), delayed bacteremia onset (p < 0.05), reduced circulating bacterial biomass (p = 0.01), and greater reduction of liver transaminase levels (p < 0.03) than controls. This study demonstrates a vaccine-induced immune response capable of conferring sterile immunity against high-dose homologous ID challenge of O. tsutsugamushi in a nonhuman primate model, and it provides insight into cell-mediated immune control of O. tsutsugamushi and dissemination dynamics, highlights the importance of bacteremia indices for evaluation of both natural and vaccine-induced immune responses, and importantly, to our knowledge, has determined the first phenotypic correlates of immune protection in scrub typhus. We conclude that this model is suitable for detailed investigations into vaccine-induced immune responses and correlates of immunity for scrub typhus.

Lim C, Blacksell SD, Laongnualpanich A, Kantipong P, Day NPJ, Paris DH, Limmathurotsakul D. 2015. Optimal Cutoff Titers for Indirect Immunofluorescence Assay for Diagnosis of Scrub Typhus. J Clin Microbiol, 53 (11), pp. 3663-3666. | Show Abstract | Read more

We determined the optimal cutoff titers in admission and convalescent-phase samples for scrub typhus indirect immunofluorescence assay using Bayesian latent class models. Cutoff titers of ≥1:3,200 in an admission sample or of a ≥4-fold rise to ≥1:3,200 in a convalescent-phase sample provided the highest accuracy (sensitivity, 81.6%; specificity, 100%).

Lim C, Paris DH, Blacksell SD, Laongnualpanich A, Kantipong P, Chierakul W, Wuthiekanun V, Day NPJ, Cooper BS, Limmathurotsakul D. 2015. How to Determine the Accuracy of an Alternative Diagnostic Test when It Is Actually Better than the Reference Tests: A Re-Evaluation of Diagnostic Tests for Scrub Typhus Using Bayesian LCMs. PLoS One, 10 (5), pp. e0114930. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA) is considered a reference test for scrub typhus. Recently, the Scrub Typhus Infection Criteria (STIC; a combination of culture, PCR assays and IFA IgM) were proposed as a reference standard for evaluating alternative diagnostic tests. Here, we use Bayesian latent class models (LCMs) to estimate the true accuracy of each diagnostic test, and of STIC, for diagnosing scrub typhus. METHODS/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Data from 161 patients with undifferentiated fever were re-evaluated using Bayesian LCMs. Every patient was evaluated for the presence of an eschar, and tested with blood culture for Orientia tsutsugamushi, three different PCR assays, IFA IgM, and the Panbio IgM immunochromatographic test (ICT). True sensitivity and specificity of culture (24.4% and 100%), 56kDa PCR assay (56.8% and 98.4%), 47kDa PCR assay (63.2% and 96.1%), groEL PCR assay (71.4% and 93.0%), IFA IgM (70.0% and 83.8%), PanBio IgM ICT (72.8% and 96.8%), presence of eschar (42.7% and 98.9%) and STIC (90.5% and 82.5%) estimated by Bayesian LCM were considerably different from those obtained when using STIC as a reference standard. The IgM ICT had comparable sensitivity and significantly higher specificity compared to IFA (p=0.34 and p<0.001, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: The low specificity of STIC was caused by the low specificity of IFA IgM. Neither STIC nor IFA IgM can be used as reference standards against which to evaluate alternative diagnostic tests. Further evaluation of new diagnostic tests should be done with a carefully selected set of diagnostic tests and appropriate statistical models.

Carter MJ, Emary KR, Moore CE, Parry CM, Sona S, Putchhat H, Reaksmey S, Chanpheaktra N, Stoesser N, Dobson ADM et al. 2015. Rapid diagnostic tests for dengue virus infection in febrile Cambodian children: diagnostic accuracy and incorporation into diagnostic algorithms. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 9 (2), pp. e0003424. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Dengue virus (DENV) infection is prevalent across tropical regions and may cause severe disease. Early diagnosis may improve supportive care. We prospectively assessed the Standard Diagnostics (Korea) BIOLINE Dengue Duo DENV rapid diagnostic test (RDT) to NS1 antigen and anti-DENV IgM (NS1 and IgM) in children in Cambodia, with the aim of improving the diagnosis of DENV infection. METHODOLOGY AND PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We enrolled children admitted to hospital with non-localised febrile illnesses during the 5-month DENV transmission season. Clinical and laboratory variables, and DENV RDT results were recorded at admission. Children had blood culture and serological and molecular tests for common local pathogens, including reference laboratory DENV NS1 antigen and IgM assays. 337 children were admitted with non-localised febrile illness over 5 months. 71 (21%) had DENV infection (reference assay positive). Sensitivity was 58%, and specificity 85% for RDT NS1 and IgM combined. Conditional inference framework analysis showed the additional value of platelet and white cell counts for diagnosis of DENV infection. Variables associated with diagnosis of DENV infection were not associated with critical care admission (70 children, 21%) or mortality (19 children, 6%). Known causes of mortality were melioidosis (4), other sepsis (5), and malignancy (1). 22 (27%) children with a positive DENV RDT had a treatable other infection. CONCLUSIONS: The DENV RDT had low sensitivity for the diagnosis of DENV infection. The high co-prevalence of infections in our cohort indicates the need for a broad microbiological assessment of non-localised febrile illness in these children.

McGready R, Prakash JAJ, Benjamin SJ, Watthanaworawit W, Anantatat T, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Ling CL, Tan SO, Ashley EA, Pimanpanarak M et al. 2014. Pregnancy outcome in relation to treatment of murine typhus and scrub typhus infection: a fever cohort and a case series analysis. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 8 (11), pp. e3327. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: There is a paucity of published reports on pregnancy outcome following scrub and murine typhus despite these infections being leading causes of undifferentiated fever in Asia. This study aimed to relate pregnancy outcome with treatment of typhus. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Data were analyzed from: i) pregnant women with a diagnosis of scrub and/or murine typhus from a fever cohort studies; ii) case series of published studies in PubMed using the search terms "scrub typhus" (ST), "murine typhus" (MT), "Orientia tsutsugamushi", "Rickettsia tsutsugamushi", "Rickettsia typhi", "rickettsiae", "typhus", or "rickettsiosis"; and "pregnancy", until February 2014 and iii) an unpublished case series. Fever clearance time (FCT) and pregnancy outcome (miscarriage and delivery) were compared to treatment. Poor neonatal outcome was a composite measure for pregnancies sustained to 28 weeks or more of gestation ending in stillbirth, preterm birth, or delivery of a growth restricted or low birth weight newborn. RESULTS: There were 26 women in the fever cohort. MT and ST were clinically indistinguishable apart from two ST patients with eschars. FCTs (median [range] hours) were 25 [16-42] for azithromycin (n=5), 34 [20-53] for antimalarials (n=5) and 92 [6-260] for other antibiotics/supportive therapy (n=16). There were 36.4% (8/22) with a poor neonatal outcome. In 18 years, 97 pregnancies were collated, 82 with known outcomes, including two maternal deaths. Proportions of miscarriage 17.3% (14/81) and poor neonatal outcomes 41.8% (28/67) were high, increasing with longer FCTs (p=0.050, linear trend). Use of azithromycin was not significantly associated with improved neonatal outcomes (p=0.610). CONCLUSION: The published ST and MT world literature amounts to less than 100 pregnancies due to under recognition and under diagnosis. Evidence supporting the most commonly used treatment, azithromycin, is weak. Collaborative, prospective clinical trials in pregnant women are urgently required to reduce the burden of adverse maternal and newborn outcomes and to determine the safety and efficacy of antimicrobial treatment.

Maude RR, Maude RJ, Ghose A, Amin MR, Islam MB, Ali M, Bari MS, Majumder MI, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Dondorp AM et al. 2014. Serosurveillance of Orientia tsutsugamushi and Rickettsia typhi in Bangladesh. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 91 (3), pp. 580-583. | Show Abstract | Read more

Scrub and murine typhus infections are under-diagnosed causes of febrile illness across the tropics, and it is not known how common they are in Bangladesh. We conducted a prospective seroepidemiologic survey across six major teaching hospitals in Bangladesh by using an IgM enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Results indicated recent exposure (287 of 1,209, 23.7% seropositive for Orientia tsutsugamushi and 805 of 1,209, 66.6% seropositive for Rickettsia typhi). Seropositive rates were different in each region. However, there was no geographic clustering of seropositive results for both organisms. There was no difference between those from rural or urban areas. Rickettsia typhi seroreactivity was positively correlated with age. Scrub typhus and murine typhus should be considered as possible causes of infection in Bangladesh.

Dittrich S, Phommasone K, Anantatat T, Panyanivong P, Slesak G, Blacksell SD, Dubot-Pérès A, Castonguay-Vanier J, Stenos J, Newton PN, Paris DH. 2014. Rickettsia felis Infections and comorbid conditions, Laos, 2003-2011. Emerg Infect Dis, 20 (8), pp. 1402-1404. | Read more

Conlan JV, Vongxay K, Khamlome B, Gomez-Morales MA, Pozio E, Blacksell SD, Fenwick S, Thompson RCA. 2014. Patterns and risks of trichinella infection in humans and pigs in northern Laos. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 8 (7), pp. e3034. | Show Abstract | Read more

Several outbreaks of trichinellosis associated with the consumption of raw pork have occurred in Laos since 2004. This cross-sectional study was conducted in four provinces of northern Laos to investigate the seroepidemiology of trichinellosis in the human population and determine the prevalence and species of Trichinella infection in the domestic pig population. Serum samples and questionnaire data were obtained from 1419 individuals. Serum samples were tested for Trichinella antibodies by ELISA using larval excretory-secretory (ES) antigens and a subset of 68 positive samples were tested by western blot. The seroprevalence of Trichinella antibodies was 19.1% (95% confidence interval (CI) = 17.1-21.1%). The risk of having antibodies detected by ELISA using ES antigens increased with age, being of Lao-Tai ethnicity, living in Oudomxay province and being male. Tongue and diaphragm muscle samples were collected from 728 pigs and tested for Trichinella larvae by the artificial digestion method. Trichinella larvae were isolated from 15 pigs (2.1%) of which 13 were identified as T. spiralis by molecular typing; the species of the two remaining isolates could not be determined due to DNA degradation. Trichinella spp. are endemic in the domestic environment of northern Laos and targeted preventative health measures should be initiated to reduce the risk of further outbreaks occurring.

Mayxay M, Castonguay-Vanier J, Chansamouth V, Dubot-Pérès A, Paris DH, Phetsouvanh R, Tangkhabuanbutra J, Douangdala P, Inthalath S, Souvannasing P et al. 2013. Causes of non-malarial fever in Laos: a prospective study. Lancet Glob Health, 1 (1), pp. e46-e54. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Because of reductions in the incidence of Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Laos, identification of the causes of fever in people without malaria, and discussion of the best empirical treatment options, are urgently needed. We aimed to identify the causes of non-malarial acute fever in patients in rural Laos. METHODS: For this prospective study, we recruited 1938 febrile patients, between May, 2008, and December, 2010, at Luang Namtha provincial hospital in northwest Laos (n=1390), and between September, 2008, and December, 2010, at Salavan provincial hospital in southern Laos (n=548). Eligible participants were aged 5-49 years with fever (≥38°C) lasting 8 days or less and were eligible for malaria testing by national guidelines. FINDINGS: With conservative definitions of cause, we assigned 799 (41%) patients a diagnosis. With exclusion of influenza, the top five diagnoses when only one aetiological agent per patient was identified were dengue (156 [8%] of 1927 patients), scrub typhus (122 [7%] of 1871), Japanese encephalitis virus (112 [6%] of 1924), leptospirosis (109 [6%] of 1934), and bacteraemia (43 [2%] of 1938). 115 (32%) of 358 patients at Luang Namtha hospital tested influenza PCR-positive between June and December, 2010, of which influenza B was the most frequently detected strain (n=121 [87%]). Disease frequency differed significantly between the two sites: Japanese encephalitis virus infection (p=0·04), typhoid (p=0·006), and leptospirosis (p=0·001) were more common at Luang Namtha, whereas dengue and malaria were more common at Salavan (all p<0·0001). With use of evidence from southeast Asia when possible, we estimated that azithromycin, doxycycline, ceftriaxone, and ofloxacin would have had significant efficacy for 258 (13%), 240 (12%), 154 (8%), and 41 (2%) of patients, respectively. INTERPRETATION: Our findings suggest that a wide range of treatable or preventable pathogens are implicated in non-malarial febrile illness in Laos. Empirical treatment with doxycycline for patients with undifferentiated fever and negative rapid diagnostic tests for malaria and dengue could be an appropriate strategy for rural health workers in Laos. FUNDING: Wellcome Trust, WHO-Western Pacific Region, Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Phommasone K, Paris DH, Anantatat T, Castonguay-Vanier J, Keomany S, Souvannasing P, Blacksell SD, Mayxay M, Newton PN. 2013. Concurrent Infection with murine typhus and scrub typhus in southern Laos--the mixed and the unmixed. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 7 (8), pp. e2163. | Read more

Watthanaworawit W, Turner P, Turner C, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Richards AL, Bourzac KM, Blacksell SD, Nosten F. 2013. A prospective evaluation of real-time PCR assays for the detection of Orientia tsutsugamushi and Rickettsia spp. for early diagnosis of rickettsial infections during the acute phase of undifferentiated febrile illness. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 89 (2), pp. 308-310. | Show Abstract | Read more

One hundred and eighty febrile patients were analyzed in a prospective evaluation of Orientia tsutsugamushi and Rickettsia spp. real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays for early diagnosis of rickettsial infections. By paired serology, 3.9% (7 of 180) and 6.1% (11 of 180) of patients were confirmed to have acute scrub or murine typhus, respectively. The PCR assays for the detection of O. tsutsugamushi and Rickettsia spp. had high specificity (99.4% [95% confidence interval (CI): 96.8-100] and 100% [95% CI: 97.8-100], respectively). The PCR results were also compared with immunoglobulin M (IgM) immunofluorescence assay (IFA) on acute sera. For O. tsutsugamushi, PCR sensitivity was twice that of acute specimen IgM IFA (28.6% versus 14.3%; McNemar's P = 0.3). For Rickettsia spp., PCR was four times as sensitive as acute specimen IgM IFA (36.4% versus 9.1%; P = 0.08), although this was not statistically significant. Whole blood and buffy coat, but not serum, were acceptable specimens for these PCRs. Further evaluation of these assays in a larger prospective study is warranted.

Siengsanan-Lamont J, Robertson ID, Blacksell SD, Ellis T, Saengchoowong S, Suwanpukdee S, Yongyuttawichai P, Cheewajorn K, Jangjaras J, Chaichoun K et al. 2013. A Study of Risk Factors for Infection with HPAI H5N1 in Small Poultry Farms in Thailand Using a Questionnaire Survey Zoonoses and Public Health, 60 (3), pp. 209-214. | Show Abstract | Read more

A questionnaire was used to collect data on small poultry farm management and wild bird observed in poultry keeping areas to identify putative risk factors for infection with HPAI H5N1. The study was conducted in 2008 in four subdistricts of central Thailand that had experienced outbreaks of HPAI H5N1 in poultry. Descriptive and inferential analyses including univariable analyses and multivariable logistic regression were used to identify putative risk factors. Risk factors included purchasing native chickens/fighting cocks from commercial hatcheries, replacing or restocking birds individually, and observing lesser whistling ducks (Dendrocygna javanica) on the farm daily. Selecting healthy animals when purchasing animals to ensure that they were disease free was a protective factor. To fully understand the epidemiology of infection of small poultry farms with HPAI H5N1, control of movement of domestic poultry and serological and virological testing of the poultry population should be applied. © 2012 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.

Jiang J, Paris DH, Blacksell SD, Aukkanit N, Newton PN, Phetsouvanh R, Izzard L, Stenos J, Graves SR, Day NPJ, Richards AL. 2013. Diversity of the 47-kD HtrA nucleic acid and translated amino acid sequences from 17 recent human isolates of Orientia. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis, 13 (6), pp. 367-375. | Show Abstract | Read more

Orientia tsutsugamushi, the etiologic agent of potentially fatal scrub typhus, is characterized by a high antigenic diversity, which complicates the development of a broadly protective vaccine. Efficacy studies in murine and nonhuman primate models demonstrated the DNA vaccine candidate pKarp47, based upon the O. tsutsugamushi Karp 47-kD HtrA protein gene, to be a successful immunoprophylactic against scrub typhus. To characterize 47-kD HtrA protein diversity among human isolates of Orientia, we sequenced the full open reading frame (ORF) of the 47-kD HtrA gene and analyzed the translated amino acid sequences of 17 patient isolates from Thailand (n=13), Laos (n=2), Australia (n=1), and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (n=1) and 9 reference strains: Karp (New Guinea), Kato (Japan), Ikeda (Japan), Gilliam (Burma), Boryong (Korea), TA763, TH1811 and TH1817 (Thailand), and MAK243 (China). The percentage identity (similarity) of translated amino acid sequences between 16 new isolates and 9 reference strains of O. tsutsugamushi ranged from 96.4% to 100% (97.4% to 100%). However, inclusion of the recently identified Orientia chuto sp. nov. reduced identity (similarity) values to 82.2% to 83.3% (90.4% to 91.4%). These results demonstrate the diversity of Orientia 47-kD HtrA among isolates encountered by humans and therefore provide support for the necessity of developing a broadly protective scrub typhus vaccine that takes this diversity into account.

Phetsouvanh R, Thojaikong T, Phoumin P, Sibounheuang B, Phommasone K, Chansamouth V, Lee SJ, Newton PN, Blacksell SD. 2013. Inter- and intra-operator variability in the reading of indirect immunofluorescence assays for the serological diagnosis of scrub typhus and murine typhus. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 88 (5), pp. 932-936. | Show Abstract | Read more

Inter- and intra-observer variation was examined among six microscopists who read 50 scrub typhus (ST) and murine typhus (MT) indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA) immunoglobulin M (IgM) slides. Inter-observer agreement was moderate (κ = 0.45) for MT and fair (κ = 0.32) for ST, and was significantly correlated with experience (P = 0.03 and P = 0.004, respectively); κ-scores for intra-observer agreement between morning and afternoon readings (range = 0.35-0.86) were not correlated between years of experience for ST and MT IFAs (Spearman's ρ = 0.31, P = 0.54 and P = 0.14, respectively; P = 0.78). Storage at 4°C for 2 days showed a change from positive to negative in 20-32% of slides. Although the titers did not dramatically change after 14 days of storage, the final interpretation (positive to negative) did change in 36-50% of samples, and it, therefore, recommended that slides should be read as soon as possible after processing.

Choudhury AAK, Conlan JV, Racloz VN, Reid SA, Blacksell SD, Fenwick SG, Thompson ARC, Khamlome B, Vongxay K, Whittaker M. 2013. The economic impact of pig-associated parasitic zoonosis in Northern Lao PDR EcoHealth, 10 (1), pp. 54-62. | Show Abstract | Read more

The parasitic zoonoses human cysticercosis (Taenia solium), taeniasis (other Taenia species) and trichinellosis (Trichinella species) are endemic in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). This study was designed to quantify the economic burden pig-associated zoonotic disease pose in Lao PDR. In particular, the analysis included estimation of the losses in the pork industry as well as losses due to human illness and lost productivity. A Markov-probability based decision-tree model was chosen to form the basis of the calculations to estimate the economic and public health impacts of taeniasis, trichinellosis and cysticercosis. Two different decision trees were run simultaneously on the model's human cohort. A third decision tree simulated the potential impacts on pig production. The human capital method was used to estimate productivity loss. The results found varied significantly depending on the rate of hospitalisation due to neurocysticerosis. This study is the first systematic estimate of the economic impact of pig-associated zoonotic diseases in Lao PDR that demonstrates the significance of the diseases in that country. © 2013 International Association for Ecology and Health.

Choudhury AAK, Conlan JV, Racloz VN, Reid SA, Blacksell SD, Fenwick SG, Thompson ARC, Khamlome B, Vongxay K, Whittaker M. 2013. The economic impact of pig-associated parasitic zoonosis in Northern Lao PDR. Ecohealth, 10 (1), pp. 54-62. | Show Abstract | Read more

The parasitic zoonoses human cysticercosis (Taenia solium), taeniasis (other Taenia species) and trichinellosis (Trichinella species) are endemic in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). This study was designed to quantify the economic burden pig-associated zoonotic disease pose in Lao PDR. In particular, the analysis included estimation of the losses in the pork industry as well as losses due to human illness and lost productivity. A Markov-probability based decision-tree model was chosen to form the basis of the calculations to estimate the economic and public health impacts of taeniasis, trichinellosis and cysticercosis. Two different decision trees were run simultaneously on the model's human cohort. A third decision tree simulated the potential impacts on pig production. The human capital method was used to estimate productivity loss. The results found varied significantly depending on the rate of hospitalisation due to neurocysticerosis. This study is the first systematic estimate of the economic impact of pig-associated zoonotic diseases in Lao PDR that demonstrates the significance of the diseases in that country.

Pan-ngum W, Blacksell SD, Lubell Y, Pukrittayakamee S, Bailey MS, de Silva HJ, Lalloo DG, Day NPJ, White LJ, Limmathurotsakul D. 2013. Estimating the true accuracy of diagnostic tests for dengue infection using bayesian latent class models. PLoS One, 8 (1), pp. e50765. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Accuracy of rapid diagnostic tests for dengue infection has been repeatedly estimated by comparing those tests with reference assays. We hypothesized that those estimates might be inaccurate if the accuracy of the reference assays is not perfect. Here, we investigated this using statistical modeling. METHODS/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Data from a cohort study of 549 patients suspected of dengue infection presenting at Colombo North Teaching Hospital, Ragama, Sri Lanka, that described the application of our reference assay (a combination of Dengue IgM antibody capture ELISA and IgG antibody capture ELISA) and of three rapid diagnostic tests (Panbio NS1 antigen, IgM antibody and IgG antibody rapid immunochromatographic cassette tests) were re-evaluated using bayesian latent class models (LCMs). The estimated sensitivity and specificity of the reference assay were 62.0% and 99.6%, respectively. Prevalence of dengue infection (24.3%), and sensitivities and specificities of the Panbio NS1 (45.9% and 97.9%), IgM (54.5% and 95.5%) and IgG (62.1% and 84.5%) estimated by bayesian LCMs were significantly different from those estimated by assuming that the reference assay was perfect. Sensitivity, specificity, PPV and NPV for a combination of NS1, IgM and IgG cassette tests on admission samples were 87.0%, 82.8%, 62.0% and 95.2%, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Our reference assay is an imperfect gold standard. In our setting, the combination of NS1, IgM and IgG rapid diagnostic tests could be used on admission to rule out dengue infection with a high level of accuracy (NPV 95.2%). Further evaluation of rapid diagnostic tests for dengue infection should include the use of appropriate statistical models.

Chheng K, Carter MJ, Emary K, Chanpheaktra N, Moore CE, Stoesser N, Putchhat H, Sona S, Reaksmey S, Kitsutani P et al. 2013. A prospective study of the causes of febrile illness requiring hospitalization in children in Cambodia. PLoS One, 8 (4), pp. e60634. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Febrile illnesses are pre-eminent contributors to morbidity and mortality among children in South-East Asia but the causes are poorly understood. We determined the causes of fever in children hospitalised in Siem Reap province, Cambodia. METHODS AND FINDINGS: A one-year prospective study of febrile children admitted to Angkor Hospital for Children, Siem Reap. Demographic, clinical, laboratory and outcome data were comprehensively analysed. Between October 12(th) 2009 and October 12(th) 2010 there were 1225 episodes of febrile illness in 1180 children. Median (IQR) age was 2.0 (0.8-6.4) years, with 850 (69%) episodes in children <5 years. Common microbiological diagnoses were dengue virus (16.2%), scrub typhus (7.8%), and Japanese encephalitis virus (5.8%). 76 (6.3%) episodes had culture-proven bloodstream infection, including Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi (22 isolates, 1.8%), Streptococcus pneumoniae (13, 1.1%), Escherichia coli (8, 0.7%), Haemophilus influenzae (7, 0.6%), Staphylococcus aureus (6, 0.5%) and Burkholderia pseudomallei (6, 0.5%). There were 69 deaths (5.6%), including those due to clinically diagnosed pneumonia (19), dengue virus (5), and melioidosis (4). 10 of 69 (14.5%) deaths were associated with culture-proven bloodstream infection in logistic regression analyses (odds ratio for mortality 3.4, 95% CI 1.6-6.9). Antimicrobial resistance was prevalent, particularly in S. enterica Typhi, (where 90% of isolates were resistant to ciprofloxacin, and 86% were multi-drug resistant). Comorbid undernutrition was present in 44% of episodes and a major risk factor for acute mortality (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.1-4.2), as were HIV infection and cardiac disease. CONCLUSION: We identified a microbiological cause of fever in almost 50% of episodes in this large study of community-acquired febrile illness in hospitalized children in Cambodia. The range of pathogens, antimicrobial susceptibility, and co-morbidities associated with mortality described will be of use in the development of rational guidelines for infectious disease treatment and control in Cambodia and South-East Asia.

Conlan JV, Vongxay K, Khamlome B, Dorny P, Sripa B, Elliot A, Blacksell SD, Fenwick S, Thompson RCA. 2012. A cross-sectional study of Taenia solium in a multiple taeniid-endemic region reveals competition may be protective. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 87 (2), pp. 281-291. | Show Abstract | Read more

We conducted cross-sectional surveys for taeniasis and cysticercosis in humans, pigs, and dogs in four northern provinces of Laos. Human cysticercosis and taeniasis prevalence was 2.2% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.4-3.0%) and 8.4% (95% CI = 6.9-9.9%), respectively. Eating uncooked beef, being male, province of residence, age, and ethnicity were significant risk factors for taeniasis and only province of residence was a significant risk factor for cystiercosis. Thirty-five human tapeworms were recovered during the survey and 33 (94.3%) and 2 (5.7%) were identified as Taenia saginata and T. solium, respectively. Maximum-likelihood adjusted prevalence of T. solium and T. hydatigena in pigs was 4.2% (95% CI = 0.5-7.9%) and 55.9% (95% CI = 47.5-64.3%), respectively, and T. hydatigena taeniasis in dogs was 4.8% (95% CI = 0.0-11.3%). Taenia hydatigena and T. saginata were the most prevalent taeniids in the respective pig and human populations and together may suppress T. solium transmission.

Siengsanan-Lamont J, Robertson ID, Blacksell SD, Ellis T, Saengchoowong S, Suwanpukdee S, Yongyuttawichai P, Cheewajorn K, Jangjaras J, Chaichoun K et al. 2013. A study of risk factors for infection with HPAI H5N1 in small poultry farms in Thailand using a questionnaire survey. Zoonoses Public Health, 60 (3), pp. 209-214. | Show Abstract | Read more

A questionnaire was used to collect data on small poultry farm management and wild bird observed in poultry keeping areas to identify putative risk factors for infection with HPAI H5N1. The study was conducted in 2008 in four subdistricts of central Thailand that had experienced outbreaks of HPAI H5N1 in poultry. Descriptive and inferential analyses including univariable analyses and multivariable logistic regression were used to identify putative risk factors. Risk factors included purchasing native chickens/fighting cocks from commercial hatcheries, replacing or restocking birds individually, and observing lesser whistling ducks (Dendrocygna javanica) on the farm daily. Selecting healthy animals when purchasing animals to ensure that they were disease free was a protective factor. To fully understand the epidemiology of infection of small poultry farms with HPAI H5N1, control of movement of domestic poultry and serological and virological testing of the poultry population should be applied.

Blacksell SD, Lee SJ, Chanthongthip A, Taojaikong T, Thongpaseuth S, Hübscher T, Newton PN. 2012. Comparison of performance of serum and plasma in panbio dengue and Japanese encephalitis virus enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 87 (3), pp. 573-575. | Show Abstract | Read more

We examined the comparative performance of serum and plasma (in dipotassium EDTA) in Panbio Dengue enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) for detection of non-structural protein 1 (NS1), IgM, and IgG, and a dengue/Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) combination IgM ELISA in a prospective series of 201 patients with suspected dengue in Laos. Paired comparisons of medians from serum and plasma samples were not significantly different for Dengue IgM, and NS1 which had the highest number of discordant pairs (both 2%; P = 0.13 and P = 0.25, respectively). Comparison of qualitative final diagnostic interpretations for serum and plasma samples were not significantly different: only 1.5% (3 of 201 for Dengue/JEV IgM and Dengue IgG) and 2.0% (4 of 201; IgM and NS1) showed discordant pairs. These results demonstrate that plasma containing EDTA is suitable for use in these ELISAs.

Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Smythe L, Dohnt M, Hartskeerl R, Vongsouvath M, Davong V, Lattana O, Newton PN, Blacksell SD. 2012. Evaluation of the Standard Diagnostics Leptospira IgM ELISA for diagnosis of acute leptospirosis in Lao PDR. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 106 (9), pp. 563-566. | Show Abstract | Read more

The diagnostic utility of the Standard Diagnostics Leptospira IgM ELISA for detection of acute leptospirosis was assessed in febrile adults admitted in Vientiane, Laos. Using the cut-off suggested by the manufacturer [optical density (OD) ≥0.75], the assay demonstrated limited diagnostic capacity with a sensitivity of 95% and a specificity of 41% compared with the Leptospira microscopic agglutination test, which is the serological gold standard. However, re-evaluation of the diagnostic cut-off to an OD of 1.7 demonstrated improved diagnostic accuracy overall (sensitivity 70%; specificity 78%).

Siritantikorn S, Jintaworn S, Noisakran S, Suputtamongkol Y, Paris DH, Blacksell SD. 2012. Application of ImageJ program to the enumeration of Orientia tsutsugamushi organisms cultured in vitro. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 106 (10), pp. 632-635. | Show Abstract | Read more

The ImageJ program was applied to the enumeration of Orientia tsutsugamushi organisms in cell culture using indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA). The highest correlation (r=0.984) was observed between manual counting methods and the ImageJ program (MaxEntropy threshold algorithm). This software-based methodology is cheaper, more standardised and better reproducible than a manual-based approach.

Moore CE, Blacksell SD, Taojaikong T, Jarman RG, Gibbons RV, Lee SJ, Chansamouth V, Thongpaseuth S, Mayxay M, Newton PN. 2012. A prospective assessment of the accuracy of commercial IgM ELISAs in diagnosis of Japanese encephalitis virus infections in patients with suspected central nervous system infections in Laos. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 87 (1), pp. 171-178. | Show Abstract | Read more

Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is a major cause of encephalitis in Asia. We estimated the diagnostic accuracy of two anti-JEV immunoglobulin M (IgM) enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) (Panbio and XCyton JEVCheX) compared with a reference standard (AFRIMS JEV MAC ELISA) in a prospective study of the causes of central nervous system infections in Laos. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF; 515 patients) and serum samples (182 patients) from those admitted to Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, were tested. The CSF from 14.5% of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) patients and 10.1% from those with AES and meningitis were positive for anti-JEV IgM in the reference ELISA. The sensitivities for CSF were 65.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 51-78) (Xcyton), 69.2% (95% CI = 55-81) (Panbio), however 96.2% (95% CI = 87-100) with Panbio Ravi criteria. Specificities were 89-100%. For admission sera from AES patients, sensitivities and specificities of the Panbio ELISA were 85.7% (95% CI = 42-100%) and 92.9% (95% CI = 83-98%), respectively.

Blacksell S, Richards A, Paris DH, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Day N. 2012. Validation of a semi-quantitative IgM ELISA for the detection of Orientia tsutsugamushi IgM antibodies for use in seroepidemiology studies in Thailand INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, 16 pp. E390-E390. | Read more

Conlan JV, Vongxay K, Jarman RG, Gibbons RV, Lunt RA, Fenwick S, Thompson RCA, Blacksell SD. 2012. Serologic study of pig-associated viral zoonoses in Laos. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 86 (6), pp. 1077-1084. | Show Abstract | Read more

We conducted a serologic survey of four high-priority pig-associated viral zoonoses, Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), hepatitis E virus (HEV), Nipah virus (NiV), and swine influenza virus (SIV), in Laos. We collected blood from pigs at slaughter during May 2008-January 2009 in four northern provinces. Japanese encephalitis virus hemagglutination inhibition seroprevalence was 74.7% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 71.5-77.9%), JEV IgM seroprevalence was 2.3% (95% CI = 1.2-3.2%), and HEV seroprevalence was 21.1% (95% CI = 18.1-24.0%). Antibodies to SIV were detected in 1.8% (95% CI = 0.8-2.8%) of pigs by screening enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and only subtype H3N2 was detected by hemagglutination inhibition in two animals with an inconclusive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay result. No NiV antibody-positive pigs were detected. Our evidence indicates that peak JEV and HEV transmission coincides with the start of the monsoonal wet season and poses the greatest risk for human infection.

Vongxay K, Conlan JV, Khounsy S, Dorny P, Fenwick S, Thompson RCA, Blacksell SD. 2012. Seroprevalence of major bovine-associated zoonotic infectious diseases in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis, 12 (10), pp. 861-866. | Show Abstract | Read more

Bovine-associated zoonotic infectious diseases pose a significant threat to human health in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). In all, 905 cattle and buffalo serum samples collected in northern Lao PDR in 2006 were used to determine seroprevalence of five major bovine zoonotic infectious diseases that included Taenia saginata cysticercosis, bovine tuberculosis, Q-fever, bovine brucellosis, and bovine leptospirosis. Five enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) were used to test for the presence of antibodies to the diseases, except Taenia saginata, for which we tested for the presence of Taenia metacestode circulating antigens. The overall highest prevalence was for T. saginata (46.4%), with lower prevalence for Q-fever (4%), leptospirosis (3%), tuberculosis (1%), and brucellosis (0.2%). Although there were no significant differences in the proportion of seroprevalence between sex and age of the animals sampled, there were significant differences between the provincial distributions. Further studies are required to determine the seroprevalence of these infections in other locations in Lao PDR, as well as other animal species including humans, in order to develop effective prevention and control strategies. This is the first study to investigate the prevalence of bovine zoonotic infectious agents in the Lao PDR. Positivity was demonstrated for all diseases investigated, with the highest prevalence for T. saginata antigen and Coxiella burnetti antibodies. For T. saginata, there were significant differences in the provincial distribution. Approximately 16% seroprevalence of Coxiella burnetti was noted in Xayabuly Province; however, there are no clear reasons why this was the case, and further studies are required to determine risk factors associated with this observation.

Conlan JV, Khamlome B, Vongxay K, Elliot A, Pallant L, Sripa B, Blacksell SD, Fenwick S, Thompson RCA. 2012. Soil-transmitted helminthiasis in Laos: a community-wide cross-sectional study of humans and dogs in a mass drug administration environment. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 86 (4), pp. 624-634. | Show Abstract | Read more

We conducted a community cross-sectional survey of soil-transmitted helminthiasis in humans and dogs in four provinces in northern Laos. We collected and tested human and dog fecal samples and analyzed results against sociodemographic data. The prevalence of Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, hookworm, and Strongyloides stercoralis was 26.1% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 23.7-28.4%), 41.5% (95% CI = 38.8-44.1%), 46.3% (95% CI = 43.3-49.0%), and 8.9% (95% CI = 7.4-10.4%), respectively. We observed strong heterogeneity for helminthiasis by ethnicity, province, and wealth status, which coincided with a risk profile demonstrating that Mon-Khmer persons and the poorest households are highly vulnerable. Necator americanus was the dominant hookworm species infecting humans and Ancylostoma ceylanicum was the only Ancylostoma species detected. Hookworm prevalence in village dogs was 94%, and the dominant species was A. ceylanicum. Necator americanus was also detected in dogs. It appears that dogs have a role in human hookworm transmission and warrant further investigation.

Blacksell SD, Jarman RG, Gibbons RV, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Mammen MP, Nisalak A, Kalayanarooj S, Bailey MS, Premaratna R, de Silva HJ et al. 2012. Comparison of seven commercial antigen and antibody enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays for detection of acute dengue infection. Clin Vaccine Immunol, 19 (5), pp. 804-810. | Show Abstract | Read more

Seven commercial assays were evaluated to determine their suitability for the diagnosis of acute dengue infection: (i) the Panbio dengue virus Pan-E NS1 early enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), second generation (Alere, Australia); (ii) the Panbio dengue virus IgM capture ELISA (Alere, Australia); (iii) the Panbio dengue virus IgG capture ELISA (Alere, Australia); (iv) the Standard Diagnostics dengue virus NS1 antigen ELISA (Standard Diagnostics, South Korea); (v) the Standard Diagnostics dengue virus IgM ELISA (Standard Diagnostics, South Korea); (vi) the Standard Diagnostics dengue virus IgG ELISA (Standard Diagnostics, South Korea); and (vii) the Platelia NS1 antigen ELISA (Bio-Rad, France). Samples from 239 Thai patients confirmed to be dengue virus positive and 98 Sri Lankan patients negative for dengue virus infection were tested. The sensitivities and specificities of the NS1 antigen ELISAs ranged from 45 to 57% and 93 to 100% and those of the IgM antibody ELISAs ranged from 85 to 89% and 88 to 100%, respectively. Combining the NS1 antigen and IgM antibody results from the Standard Diagnostics ELISAs gave the best compromise between sensitivity and specificity (87 and 96%, respectively), as well as providing the best sensitivity for patients presenting at different times after fever onset. The Panbio IgG capture ELISA correctly classified 67% of secondary dengue infection cases. This study provides strong evidence of the value of combining dengue virus antigen- and antibody-based test results in the ELISA format for the diagnosis of acute dengue infection.

Blacksell SD, Paris DH, Chierakul W, Wuthiekanun V, Teeratakul A, Kantipong P, Day NPJ. 2012. Prospective evaluation of commercial antibody-based rapid tests in combination with a loop-mediated isothermal amplification PCR assay for detection of Orientia tsutsugamushi during the acute phase of scrub typhus infection. Clin Vaccine Immunol, 19 (3), pp. 391-395. | Show Abstract | Read more

Samples from 160 prospectively recruited febrile patients with typhus-like illness in an area of Thailand (Chiang Rai, northern Thailand) where scrub typhus is endemic were used to evaluate the diagnostic capabilities of four rapid immunochromatographic tests (ICTs) for the detection of Orientia tsutsugamushi IgM and total antibodies during acute scrub typhus infection. Of the 160 cases, 54 (34%) had been confirmed to have scrub typhus using the reference scrub typhus infection criteria (STIC), i.e., positive cell culture isolation, an admission IgM antibody titer of ≥1:12,800, a 4-fold rising IgM antibody titer, and/or positivity for ≥2 out of 3 PCR gene targets). The ICTs gave the following sensitivities and specificities: the Panbio IgM ICT, 46% (95% confidence interval [CI], 33 to 60) and 95% (95% CI, 89 to 98), respectively; the Standard Diagnostics IgM ICT, 68% (95% CI, 60 to 75) and 73% (95% CI, 68 to 78), respectively; the AccessBio IgM ICT, 56% (95% CI, 48 to 63) and 90% (95% CI, 87 to 94), respectively; and the AccessBio total antibody ABt ICT, 61% (95% CI, 53 to 68) and 68% (95% CI, 63 to 73), respectively. An isothermal loop amplification (LAMP) PCR assay for scrub typhus demonstrated a sensitivity of 52% (95% CI, 38 to 66) and a specificity of 94% (95% CI, 88 to 98). This study has revealed the diagnostic limitations of antibody-based assays in an acute care setting. However, the combination of ICTs with LAMP usually increased sensitivity with a minimal reduction in specificity. The best combination, the Panbio IgM ICT and LAMP, resulted in a sensitivity of 67% (95% CI, 53 to 79) and a specificity of 91% (95% CI, 83 to 95). The combination of antibody-based assays with DNA- or antigen-based tests shows promise for improved diagnostic sensitivity.

Blacksell SD, Lee SJ, Chanthongthip A, Taojaikong T, Thongpaseuth S, Hübscher T, Newton PN. 2012. Short report: Comparison of performance of serum and plasma in panbio dengue and Japanese encephalitis virus enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 87 (3), pp. 573-575. | Show Abstract | Read more

We examined the comparative performance of serum and plasma (in dipotassium EDTA) in Panbio Dengue enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) for detection of non-structural protein 1 (NS1), IgM, and IgG, and a dengue/Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) combination IgM ELISA in a prospective series of 201 patients with suspected dengue in Laos. Paired comparisons of medians from serum and plasma samples were not significantly different for Dengue IgM, and NS1 which had the highest number of discordant pairs (both 2%; P = 0.13 and P = 0.25, respectively). Comparison of qualitative final diagnostic interpretations for serum and plasma samples were not significantly different: only 1.5% (3 of 201 for Dengue/JEV IgM and Dengue IgG) and 2.0% (4 of 201; IgM and NS1) showed discordant pairs. These results demonstrate that plasma containing EDTA is suitable for use in these ELISAs. Copyright © 2012 by The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Paris DH, Phetsouvanh R, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Jones M, Jenjaroen K, Vongsouvath M, Ferguson DPJ, Blacksell SD, Newton PN, Day NPJ, Turner GDH. 2012. Orientia tsutsugamushi in human scrub typhus eschars shows tropism for dendritic cells and monocytes rather than endothelium. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 6 (1), pp. e1466. | Show Abstract | Read more

Scrub typhus is a common and underdiagnosed cause of febrile illness in Southeast Asia, caused by infection with Orientia tsutsugamushi. Inoculation of the organism at a cutaneous mite bite site commonly results in formation of a localized pathological skin reaction termed an eschar. The site of development of the obligate intracellular bacteria within the eschar and the mechanisms of dissemination to cause systemic infection are unclear. Previous postmortem and in vitro reports demonstrated infection of endothelial cells, but recent pathophysiological investigations of typhus patients using surrogate markers of endothelial cell and leucocyte activation indicated a more prevalent host leucocyte than endothelial cell response in vivo. We therefore examined eschar skin biopsies from patients with scrub typhus to determine and characterize the phenotypes of host cells in vivo with intracellular infection by O. tsutsugamushi, using histology, immunohistochemistry, double immunofluorescence confocal laser scanning microscopy and electron microscopy. Immunophenotyping of host leucocytes infected with O. tsutsugamushi showed a tropism for host monocytes and dendritic cells, which were spatially related to different histological zones of the eschar. Infected leucocyte subsets were characterized by expression of HLADR+, with an "inflammatory" monocyte phenotype of CD14/LSP-1/CD68 positive or dendritic cell phenotype of CD1a/DCSIGN/S100/FXIIIa and CD163 positive staining, or occasional CD3 positive T-cells. Endothelial cell infection was rare, and histology did not indicate a widespread inflammatory vasculitis as the cause of the eschar. Infection of dendritic cells and activated inflammatory monocytes offers a potential route for dissemination of O. tsutsugamushi from the initial eschar site. This newly described cellular tropism for O. tsutsugamushi may influence its interaction with local host immune responses.

Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Smythe L, Dohnt M, Hartskeerl R, Vongsouvath M, Davong V, Lattana O, Newton PN, Blacksell SD. 2012. Evaluation of the Standard Diagnostics Leptospira IgM ELISA for diagnosis of acute leptospirosis in Lao PDR Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 106 (9), pp. 563-566. | Show Abstract | Read more

The diagnostic utility of the Standard Diagnostics . Leptospira IgM ELISA for detection of acute leptospirosis was assessed in febrile adults admitted in Vientiane, Laos. Using the cut-off suggested by the manufacturer [optical density (OD) ≥0.75], the assay demonstrated limited diagnostic capacity with a sensitivity of 95% and a specificity of 41% compared with the . Leptospira microscopic agglutination test, which is the serological gold standard. However, re-evaluation of the diagnostic cut-off to an OD of 1.7 demonstrated improved diagnostic accuracy overall (sensitivity 70%; specificity 78%). © 2012 Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Blacksell SD. 2012. Commercial dengue rapid diagnostic tests for point-of-care application: recent evaluations and future needs? J Biomed Biotechnol, 2012 pp. 151967. | Show Abstract | Read more

Dengue fever, dengue haemorrhagic fever, and dengue shock syndrome (DF/DHF/DSS) are tropical diseases that cause significant humanitarian and economic hardship. It is estimated that more than 2.5 billion people are at risk of infection and more than 100 countries have endemic dengue virus transmission. Laboratory tests are essential to provide an accurate diagnosis of dengue virus infection so that appropriate treatment and patient management may be administered. In many dengue endemic settings, laboratory diagnostic resources are limited and simple rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) provide opportunities for point-of-care diagnosis. This paper addresses current issues relating to the application of commercial dengue RDTs for the diagnosis of acute dengue virus infection, recent diagnostic evaluations, and identifies future needs.

Paris DH, Chansamouth V, Nawtaisong P, Löwenberg EC, Phetsouvanh R, Blacksell SD, Lee SJ, Dondorp AM, van der Poll T, Newton PN et al. 2012. Coagulation and inflammation in scrub typhus and murine typhus-a prospective comparative study from Laos Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 18 (12), pp. 1221-1228. | Show Abstract | Read more

Scrub typhus (caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi) and murine typhus (caused by Rickettsia typhi) cause up to 28% of febrile episodes in Thailand and Laos. The current understanding of coagulation and inflammation in the pathogenesis of these clinically very similar vasculotropic diseases is limited. This study compared human in vivo changes in 15 coagulation, inflammation and endothelial activation markers in prospectively collected admission and follow-up samples of 121 patients (55 scrub typhus, 55 murine typhus, and 11 typhus-like illness) and 51 healthy controls from Laos. As compared with controls, all but one of the markers assessed were significantly affected in typhus patients; however, the activation patterns differed significantly between scrub and murine typhus patients. The levels of markers of coagulation activation and all inflammatory cytokines, except for interleukin-12, were significantly higher in patients with scrub typhus than in those with murine typhus. In patients with murine typhus, however, the levels of endothelium-derived markers were significantly higher. Anticoagulant factors were inhibited in both typhus patient groups. This is the first study demonstrating that, in scrub typhus, in vivo coagulation activation is prominent and is related to a strong proinflammatory response, whereas in murine typhus, changes in coagulant and fibrinolytic pathways are suggestive of endothelial cell perturbation. These data suggest that, although late-stage endothelial infection is common in both diseases, the in vivo pathogenic mechanisms of R. typhi and O. tsutsugamushi could differ in the early phase of infection and may contribute to disease differentiation. © 2011 The Authors. Clinical Microbiology and Infection © 2011 European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

Siritantikorn S, Jintaworn S, Noisakran S, Suputtamongkol Y, Paris DH, Blacksell SD. 2012. Application of ImageJ program to the enumeration of Orientia tsutsugamushi organisms cultured in vitro Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 106 (10), pp. 632-635. | Show Abstract | Read more

The ImageJ program was applied to the enumeration of Orientia tsutsugamushi organisms in cell culture using indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA). The highest correlation (r = 0.984) was observed between manual counting methods and the ImageJ program (MaxEntropy threshold algorithm). This software-based methodology is cheaper, more standardised and better reproducible than a manual-based approach. © 2012 Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Hall RA, Blitvich BJ, Johansen CA, Blacksell SD. 2012. Advances in arbovirus surveillance, detection and diagnosis. J Biomed Biotechnol, 2012 pp. 512969. | Read more

Paris DH, Chansamouth V, Nawtaisong P, Löwenberg EC, Phetsouvanh R, Blacksell SD, Lee SJ, Dondorp AM, van der Poll T, Newton PN et al. 2012. Coagulation and inflammation in scrub typhus and murine typhus--a prospective comparative study from Laos. Clin Microbiol Infect, 18 (12), pp. 1221-1228. | Show Abstract | Read more

Scrub typhus (caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi) and murine typhus (caused by Rickettsia typhi) cause up to 28% of febrile episodes in Thailand and Laos. The current understanding of coagulation and inflammation in the pathogenesis of these clinically very similar vasculotropic diseases is limited. This study compared human in vivo changes in 15 coagulation, inflammation and endothelial activation markers in prospectively collected admission and follow-up samples of 121 patients (55 scrub typhus, 55 murine typhus, and 11 typhus-like illness) and 51 healthy controls from Laos. As compared with controls, all but one of the markers assessed were significantly affected in typhus patients; however, the activation patterns differed significantly between scrub and murine typhus patients. The levels of markers of coagulation activation and all inflammatory cytokines, except for interleukin-12, were significantly higher in patients with scrub typhus than in those with murine typhus. In patients with murine typhus, however, the levels of endothelium-derived markers were significantly higher. Anticoagulant factors were inhibited in both typhus patient groups. This is the first study demonstrating that, in scrub typhus, in vivo coagulation activation is prominent and is related to a strong proinflammatory response, whereas in murine typhus, changes in coagulant and fibrinolytic pathways are suggestive of endothelial cell perturbation. These data suggest that, although late-stage endothelial infection is common in both diseases, the in vivo pathogenic mechanisms of R. typhi and O. tsutsugamushi could differ in the early phase of infection and may contribute to disease differentiation.

Blacksell SD, Jarman RG, Bailey MS, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Jenjaroen K, Gibbons RV, Paris DH, Premaratna R, de Silva HJ, Lalloo DG, Day NPJ. 2011. Evaluation of six commercial point-of-care tests for diagnosis of acute dengue infections: the need for combining NS1 antigen and IgM/IgG antibody detection to achieve acceptable levels of accuracy. Clin Vaccine Immunol, 18 (12), pp. 2095-2101. | Show Abstract | Read more

Six assays were evaluated in this study to determine their suitability for the diagnosis of acute dengue infection using samples from 259 Sri Lankan patients with acute fevers (99 confirmed dengue cases and 160 patients with other confirmed acute febrile illnesses): (i) the Merlin dengue fever IgG & IgM combo device (Merlin), (ii) the Standard Diagnostics Dengue Duo nonstructural 1 (NS1) antigen and IgG/IgM combo device (Standard Diagnostics, South Korea), (iii) the Biosynex Immunoquick dengue fever IgG and IgM (Biosynex, France) assay, (iv) the Bio-Rad NS1 antigen strip (Bio-Rad, France), (v) the Panbio Dengue Duo IgG/IgM Cassette (Inverness, Australia), and (vi) the Panbio dengue NS1 antigen strip (Inverness, Australia). The median number of days of fever prior to admission sample collection was 5 days (interquartile range, 3 to 7 days). Sensitivity and specificity of the NS1 antigen tests ranged from 49 to 59% and from 93 to 99%, respectively, and sensitivity and sensitivity of the IgM antibody test ranged from 71 to 80% and from 46 to 90%, respectively. Combining the NS1 antigen and IgM antibody results from the Standard Diagnostics Dengue Duo test gave the best compromise of sensitivity and specificity (93% and 89%, respectively) and provided the best sensitivity in patients presenting at different times after fever onset. The Merlin IgM/IgG antibody tests correctly classified 64% and 86% of the primary and secondary dengue infection cases, respectively, and the Standard Diagnostics IgM/IgG antibody tests correctly classified 71% and 83% of the primary and secondary dengue infection cases, respectively. This study provides strong evidence of the value of combining dengue antigen- and antibody-based test results in the rapid diagnostic test (RDT) format for the acute diagnosis of dengue.

Paris DH, Blacksell SD, Nawtaisong P, Jenjaroen K, Teeraratkul A, Chierakul W, Wuthiekanun V, Kantipong P, Day NPJ. 2011. Diagnostic accuracy of a loop-mediated isothermal PCR assay for detection of Orientia tsutsugamushi during acute Scrub Typhus infection. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 5 (9), pp. e1307. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: There is an urgent need to develop rapid and accurate point-of-care (POC) technologies for acute scrub typhus diagnosis in low-resource, primary health care settings to guide clinical therapy. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In this study we present the clinical evaluation of loop-mediated isothermal PCR assay (LAMP) in the context of a prospective fever study, including 161 patients from scrub typhus-endemic Chiang Rai, northern Thailand. A robust reference comparator set comprising following 'scrub typhus infection criteria' (STIC) was used: a) positive cell culture isolate and/or b) an admission IgM titer ≥1∶12,800 using the 'gold standard' indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA) and/or c) a 4-fold rising IFA IgM titer and/or d) a positive result in at least two out of three PCR assays. Compared to the STIC criteria, all PCR assays (including LAMP) demonstrated high specificity ranging from 96-99%, with sensitivities varying from 40% to 56%, similar to the antibody based rapid test, which had a sensitivity of 47% and a specificity of 95%. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The diagnostic accuracy of the LAMP assay was similar to realtime and nested conventional PCR assays, but superior to the antibody-based rapid test in the early disease course. The combination of DNA- and antibody-based detection methods increased sensitivity with minimal reduction of specificity, and expanded the timeframe of adequate diagnostic coverage throughout the acute phase of scrub typhus.

Blacksell SD, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Jarman RG, Gibbons RV, Paris DH, Bailey MS, Day NPJ, Premaratna R, Lalloo DG, de Silva HJ. 2011. Poor diagnostic accuracy of commercial antibody-based assays for the diagnosis of acute Chikungunya infection. Clin Vaccine Immunol, 18 (10), pp. 1773-1775. | Show Abstract | Read more

A Sri Lankan fever cohort (n = 292 patients; 17.8% prevalence) was used to assess two standard diagnostic Chikungunya IgM tests. The immunochromatographic test (ICT) acute sample sensitivity (SN) was 1.9 to 3.9%, and specificity (SP) was 92.5 to 95.0%. The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) gave an acute sample SN of 3.9% and an SP of 92.5% and a convalescent sample SN of 84% and an SP of 91%. These assays are not suitable for the acute diagnosis of Chikungunya virus infection.

Conlan JV, Jarman RG, Vongxay K, Chinnawirotpisan P, Melendrez MC, Fenwick S, Thompson RCA, Blacksell SD. 2011. Hepatitis E virus is prevalent in the pig population of Lao People's Democratic Republic and evidence exists for homogeneity with Chinese Genotype 4 human isolates. Infect Genet Evol, 11 (6), pp. 1306-1311. | Show Abstract | Read more

The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and genotypic range of Hepatitis E virus (HEV) in the pig population of northern Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR). We collected 181 faecal samples from indigenous-breed pigs ≤ 6 months of age and the faeces was stored in RNA stabilisation buffer due to cold-chain and transport limitations. Twenty-one (11.6%) pigs had detectable HEV RNA and 43.5% of village pig herds were infected. Based on a 240 base pair-nucleotide sequence flanking the junction of open reading frames 1, 2 and 3 (ORF1, ORF2 and ORF3) the isolates were phylogenetically classified within genotype 4. Phylogenetic analyses revealed distinct genetic groupings of the Lao HEV isolates and two groups clustered with human and pig HEV isolates from China. This was the first study to demonstrate genotype 4 HEV in Lao PDR and indicates pigs are a potential reservoir for human HEV infection.

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Paris DH, Phetsouvanh R, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Jones M, Jenjaroen K, Vongsouvath M, Ferguson DPJ, Blacksell SD, Newton PN, Day NPJ, Turner GDH. 2012. Orientia tsutsugamushi in Human Scrub Typhus Eschars Shows Tropism for Dendritic Cells and Monocytes Rather than Endothelium PLOS NEGLECTED TROPICAL DISEASES, 6 (1), pp. e1466-e1466. | Read more

Conlan JV, Jarman RG, Vongxay K, Chinnawirotpisan P, Melendrez MC, Fenwick S, Thompson RCA, Blacksell SD. 2011. Hepatitis E virus is prevalent in the pig population of Lao People's Democratic Republic and evidence exists for homogeneity with Chinese Genotype 4 human isolates Infection, Genetics and Evolution, 11 (6), pp. 1306-1311. | Show Abstract | Read more

The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and genotypic range of Hepatitis E virus (HEV) in the pig population of northern Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR). We collected 181 faecal samples from indigenous-breed pigs ≤6 months of age and the faeces was stored in RNA stabilisation buffer due to cold-chain and transport limitations. Twenty-one (11.6%) pigs had detectable HEV RNA and 43.5% of village pig herds were infected. Based on a 240 base pair-nucleotide sequence flanking the junction of open reading frames 1, 2 and 3 (ORF1, ORF2 and ORF3) the isolates were phylogenetically classified within genotype 4. Phylogenetic analyses revealed distinct genetic groupings of the Lao HEV isolates and two groups clustered with human and pig HEV isolates from China. This was the first study to demonstrate genotype 4 HEV in Lao PDR and indicates pigs are a potential reservoir for human HEV infection. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

Siengsanan-Lamont J, Robertson I, Blacksell SD, Ellis T, Fenwick S, Saengchoowong S, Suwanpukdee S, Yongyuttawichai P, Sariya L, Prompiram P et al. 2011. Virological and molecular epidemiological investigations into the role of wild birds in the epidemiology of influenza A/H5N1 in central Thailand Veterinary Microbiology, 148 (2-4), pp. 213-218. | Show Abstract | Read more

A serological and virological surveillance program to investigate the HPAI H5N1 virus in wild bird populations was undertaken from February 2007 to October 2008. The purpose of the survey was to investigate the infection status in free ranging wild birds in Banglane district, Nakhon Pathom province, central Thailand. Samples from wild birds were collected every two months. Choanal and cloacal swabs, serum and tissue samples were collected from 421 birds comprising 44 species. Sero-prevalence of the virus tested by H5N1 serum neutralization test (using a H5N1 virus clade 1; A/chicken/Thailand/vsmu-3-BKK/2004) was 2.1% (8 out of 385 samples; 95% CI 0.7, 3.5). Species that were antibody positive included rock pigeons (Columba livia), Asian pied starling (Gracupica contra), spotted dove (Streptopelia chinensis), oriental magpie robin (Copsychus saularis), blue-tailed bee-eater (Merops philippinus), myna (Acridotheres spp.), and pond heron (Ardeola spp.). Prevalence by H5N1 virus isolation was 0.5% (2 out of 421 samples; 95% CI 0.0, 1.1); the two H5N1 virus-positive samples were from Asian pied starling (Gracupica contra) and white vented myna (Acridotheres grandis). Positive virological samples were collected in June 2007 while all positive serology samples were collected between May and August except for one sample collected in December 2007. No positive samples were collected in 2008. Molecular studies revealed that the wild bird H5N1 viruses were closely related to poultry viruses isolated in other parts of Thailand. However, there was no poultry H5N1 prevalence study performed in the study site during the time of this wild bird survey. Interpretation of source of virus isolates would include spill-over of H5N1 viruses from contaminated sources due to movement of domestic poultry and/or fomites from other areas; or infection of wild birds within the outbreak locat ions and then translocation by wild bird movement and interaction with wild birds inhabiting distant locations. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

Watthanaworawit W, Turner P, Turner CL, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Jarman RG, Blacksell SD, Nosten FH. 2011. A prospective evaluation of diagnostic methodologies for the acute diagnosis of dengue virus infection on the Thailand-Myanmar border Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 105 (1), pp. 32-37. | Show Abstract | Read more

Clinically useful diagnostic tests of dengue virus infection are lacking. We prospectively evaluated the performance of real-time reverse transcriptase (rRT)-PCR, NS-1 antigen and IgM antibody tests to confirm dengue virus infection in acute blood specimens from 162 patients presenting with undifferentiated febrile illness compatible with dengue infection. rRT-PCR was the most sensitive test (89%) and potentially could be used as a single test for confirmation of dengue infection. NS-1 antigen and IgM antibody were not sufficiently sensitive to be used as a single confirmatory test with sensitivities of 54% and 17% respectively. The specificities of rRT-PCR, NS-1 antigen and IgM antibody tests were 96%, 100% and 88% respectively. Combining NS-1 and rRT-PCR or the combination of all three tests resulted in the highest sensitivity (93%) but specificities dropped to 96% and 83% respectively. We conclude that at least the combination of two tests, either agent detection (rRT-PCR) or antigen detection (NS-1) plus IgM antibody detection should be used for laboratory confirmation of dengue infection. © 2010 Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

McGready R, Wuthiekanun V, Ashley EA, Tan SO, Pimanpanarak M, Viladpai-Nguen SJ, Jesadapanpong W, Blacksell SD, Proux S, Day NP et al. 2010. Diagnostic and treatment difficulties of pyelonephritis in pregnancy in resource-limited settings. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 83 (6), pp. 1322-1329. | Show Abstract | Read more

Limited microbiology services impede adequate diagnosis and treatment of common infections such as pyelonephritis in resource-limited settings. Febrile pregnant women attending antenatal clinics at Shoklo Malaria Research Unit were offered urine dipstick, sediment microscopy, urine culture, and a 5-mL blood culture. The incidence of pyelonephritis was 11/1,000 deliveries (N = 53 in 4,819 pregnancies) between January 7, 2004 and May 17, 2006. Pyelonephritis accounted for 20.2% (41/203) of fever cases in pregnancy. Escherichia coli was the most commonly isolated pathogen: 87.5% (28/32) of organisms cultured. Susceptibility of E. coli to ampicillin (14%), cotrimoxazole (21%), and amoxicillin-clavulanic acid (48%) was very low. E. coli was susceptible to ceftriaxone and ciprofloxacin. The rate of extended spectrum β-lactamase (4.2%; 95% confidence interval = 0.7-19.5) was low. The rate and causes of pyelonephritis in pregnant refugee and migrant women were comparable with those described in developed countries. Diagnostic innovation in microbiology that permits affordable access is a high priority for resource-poor settings.

Watthanaworawit W, Turner P, Turner CL, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Jarman RG, Blacksell SD, Nosten FH. 2011. A prospective evaluation of diagnostic methodologies for the acute diagnosis of dengue virus infection on the Thailand-Myanmar border. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 105 (1), pp. 32-37. | Show Abstract | Read more

Clinically useful diagnostic tests of dengue virus infection are lacking. We prospectively evaluated the performance of real-time reverse transcriptase (rRT)-PCR, NS-1 antigen and IgM antibody tests to confirm dengue virus infection in acute blood specimens from 162 patients presenting with undifferentiated febrile illness compatible with dengue infection. rRT-PCR was the most sensitive test (89%) and potentially could be used as a single test for confirmation of dengue infection. NS-1 antigen and IgM antibody were not sufficiently sensitive to be used as a single confirmatory test with sensitivities of 54% and 17% respectively. The specificities of rRT-PCR, NS-1 antigen and IgM antibody tests were 96%, 100% and 88% respectively. Combining NS-1 and rRT-PCR or the combination of all three tests resulted in the highest sensitivity (93%) but specificities dropped to 96% and 83% respectively. We conclude that at least the combination of two tests, either agent detection (rRT-PCR) or antigen detection (NS-1) plus IgM antibody detection should be used for laboratory confirmation of dengue infection.

Siengsanan-Lamont J, Robertson I, Blacksell SD, Ellis T, Fenwick S, Saengchoowong S, Suwanpukdee S, Yongyuttawichai P, Sariya L, Prompiram P et al. 2011. Virological and molecular epidemiological investigations into the role of wild birds in the epidemiology of influenza A/H5N1 in central Thailand. Vet Microbiol, 148 (2-4), pp. 213-218. | Show Abstract | Read more

A serological and virological surveillance program to investigate the HPAI H5N1 virus in wild bird populations was undertaken from February 2007 to October 2008. The purpose of the survey was to investigate the infection status in free ranging wild birds in Banglane district, Nakhon Pathom province, central Thailand. Samples from wild birds were collected every two months. Choanal and cloacal swabs, serum and tissue samples were collected from 421 birds comprising 44 species. Sero-prevalence of the virus tested by H5N1 serum neutralization test (using a H5N1 virus clade 1; A/chicken/Thailand/vsmu-3-BKK/2004) was 2.1% (8 out of 385 samples; 95% CI 0.7, 3.5). Species that were antibody positive included rock pigeons (Columba livia), Asian pied starling (Gracupica contra), spotted dove (Streptopelia chinensis), oriental magpie robin (Copsychus saularis), blue-tailed bee-eater (Merops philippinus), myna (Acridotheres spp.), and pond heron (Ardeola spp.). Prevalence by H5N1 virus isolation was 0.5% (2 out of 421 samples; 95% CI 0.0, 1.1); the two H5N1 virus-positive samples were from Asian pied starling (Gracupica contra) and white vented myna (Acridotheres grandis). Positive virological samples were collected in June 2007 while all positive serology samples were collected between May and August except for one sample collected in December 2007. No positive samples were collected in 2008. Molecular studies revealed that the wild bird H5N1 viruses were closely related to poultry viruses isolated in other parts of Thailand. However, there was no poultry H5N1 prevalence study performed in the study site during the time of this wild bird survey. Interpretation of source of virus isolates would include spill-over of H5N1 viruses from contaminated sources due to movement of domestic poultry and/or fomites from other areas; or infection of wild birds within the outbreak locations and then translocation by wild bird movement and interaction with wild birds inhabiting distant locations.

Izzard L, Fuller A, Blacksell SD, Paris DH, Richards AL, Aukkanit N, Nguyen C, Jiang J, Fenwick S, Day NPJ et al. 2010. Isolation of a novel Orientia species (O. chuto sp. nov.) from a patient infected in Dubai. J Clin Microbiol, 48 (12), pp. 4404-4409. | Show Abstract | Read more

In July 2006, an Australian tourist returning from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), developed acute scrub typhus. Her signs and symptoms included fever, myalgia, headache, rash, and eschar. Orientia tsutsugamushi serology demonstrated a 4-fold rise in antibody titers in paired serum collections (1:512 to 1:8,192), with the sera reacting strongest against the Gilliam strain antigen. An Orientia species was isolated by the in vitro culture of the patient's acute blood taken prior to antibiotic treatment. The gene sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene (rrs), partial 56-kDa gene, and the full open reading frame 47-kDa gene was performed, and comparisons of this new Orientia sp. isolate to previously characterized strains demonstrated significant sequence diversity. The closest homology to the rrs sequence of the new Orientia sp. isolate was with three strains of O. tsutsugamushi (Ikeda, Kato, and Karp), with a nucleotide sequence similarity of 98.5%. The closest homology to the 47-kDa gene sequence was with O. tsutsugamushi strain Gilliam, with a nucleotide similarity of 82.3%, while the closest homology to the 56-kDa gene sequence was with O. tsutsugamushi strain TA686, with a nucleotide similarity of 53.1%. The molecular divergence and geographically unique origin lead us to believe that this organism should be considered a novel species. Therefore, we have proposed the name "Orientia chuto," and the prototype strain of this species is strain Dubai, named after the location in which the patient was infected.

Blacksell SD, Jenjaroen K, Phetsouvanh R, Tanganuchitcharnchai A, Phouminh P, Phongmany S, Day NPJ, Newton PN. 2010. Accuracy of rapid IgM-based immunochromatographic and immunoblot assays for diagnosis of acute scrub typhus and murine typhus infections in Laos. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 83 (2), pp. 365-369. | Show Abstract | Read more

We studied the diagnostic accuracy of a rapid immunochromatographic test (ICT) for detection of IgM against scrub typhus (ST ICT) and an immunoblot test for the detection of IgM against murine typhus (MT IBT) by using admission serum samples from 1,030 febrile patients in Laos. Sensitivity and specificity for the ST ICT determined by using the diagnostic criteria of a four-fold increase in IgM against Orientia tsutsugamushi between paired samples were 23.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 15.9-33.3%) and 86.2% (95% CI = 84.1-88.6%), respectively. Sensitivity and specificity for the ST ICT determined by using an admission IgM titer > or = 1:400 were 39.1% (95% CI = 34.1-44.2%) and 99.5% (95% CI = 98.7-99.9%), respectively. Sensitivity and specificity for the MT IBT determined by using the criteria of a four-fold increase in IgM against Rickettsia typhi between paired serum samples were 61.2% (95% CI = 53.7-68.3%) and 86.5% (95% CI = 84.1-88.8%), respectively. Sensitivity and specificity for the MT IBT determined by using an admission IgM titer > or = 1:400 were 54.6% (95% CI = 49.1-60.0%) and 94.1% (95% CI = 92.0-95.7%), respectively. Both assays had relatively good specificity but low sensitivity and thus have limited utility for admission diagnosis.

Sonthayanon P, Peacock SJ, Chierakul W, Wuthiekanun V, Blacksell SD, Holden MTG, Bentley SD, Feil EJ, Day NPJ. 2010. High rates of homologous recombination in the mite endosymbiont and opportunistic human pathogen Orientia tsutsugamushi. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 4 (7), pp. e752. | Show Abstract | Read more

Orientia tsutsugamushi is an intracellular alpha-proteobacterium which resides in trombiculid mites, and is the causative agent of scrub typhus in East Asia. The genome sequence of this species has revealed an unprecedented number of repeat sequences, most notably of the genes encoding the conjugative properties of a type IV secretion system (T4SS). Although this observation is consistent with frequent intragenomic recombination, the extent of homologous recombination (gene conversion) in this species is unknown. To address this question, and to provide a protocol for the epidemiological surveillance of this important pathogen, we have developed a multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme based on 7 housekeeping genes (gpsA, mdh, nrdB, nuoF, ppdK, sucD, sucB). We applied this scheme to the two published genomes, and to DNA extracted from blood taken from 84 Thai scrub typhus patients, from 20 cultured Thai patient isolates, 1 Australian patient sample, and from 3 cultured type strains. These data demonstrated that the O. tsutsugamushi population was both highly diverse [Simpson's index (95% CI) = 0.95 (0.92-0.98)], and highly recombinogenic. These results are surprising given the intracellular life-style of this species, but are broadly consistent with results obtained for Wolbachia, which is an alpha-proteobacterial reproductive parasite of arthropods. We also compared the MLST data with ompA sequence data and noted low levels of consistency and much higher discrimination by MLST. Finally, twenty-five percent of patients in this study were simultaneously infected with multiple sequence types, suggesting multiple infection caused by either multiple mite bites, or multiple strains co-existing within individual mites.

Syhavong B, Rasachack B, Smythe L, Rolain J-M, Roque-Afonso A-M, Jenjaroen K, Soukkhaserm V, Phongmany S, Phetsouvanh R, Soukkhaserm S et al. 2010. The infective causes of hepatitis and jaundice amongst hospitalised patients in Vientiane, Laos. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 104 (7), pp. 475-483. | Show Abstract | Read more

There is little information on the diverse infectious causes of jaundice and hepatitis in the Asiatic tropics. Serology (hepatitis A, B, C and E, leptospirosis, dengue, rickettsia), antigen tests (dengue), PCR assays (hepatitis A, C and E) and blood cultures (septicaemia) were performed on samples from 392 patients admitted with jaundice or raised transaminases (> or =x3) to Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, Laos over 3 years. Conservative definitions suggested diagnoses of dengue (8.4%), rickettsioses (7.3%), leptospirosis (6.8%), hepatitis B (4.9%), hepatitis C (4.9%), community-acquired septicaemia (3.3%) and hepatitis E (1.6%). Although anti-hepatitis A virus (HAV) IgM antibody results suggested that 35.8% of patients had acute HAV infections, anti-HAV IgG antibody avidity and HAV PCR suggested that 82% had polyclonal activation and not acute HAV infections. Scrub typhus, murine typhus or leptospirosis were present in 12.8% of patients and were associated with meningism and relatively low AST and ALT elevation. These patients would be expected to respond to empirical doxycycline therapy which, in the absence of virological diagnosis and treatment, may be an appropriate cost-effective intervention in Lao patients with jaundice/hepatitis.

Koh GCKW, Maude RJ, Paris DH, Newton PN, Blacksell SD. 2010. Diagnosis of scrub typhus. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 82 (3), pp. 368-370. | Show Abstract | Read more

Scrub typhus is transmitted by trombiculid mites and is endemic to East and Southeast Asia and Northern Australia. The clinical syndrome classically consists of a fever, rash, and eschar, but scrub typhus also commonly presents as an undifferentiated fever that requires laboratory confirmation of the diagnosis, usually by indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA) assay. We discuss the limitations of IFA, debate the value of other methods based on antigen detection and nucleic acid amplification, and outline recommendations for future study.

McGready R, Ashley EA, Wuthiekanun V, Tan SO, Pimanpanarak M, Viladpai-Nguen SJ, Jesadapanpong W, Blacksell SD, Peacock SJ, Paris DH et al. 2010. Arthropod borne disease: the leading cause of fever in pregnancy on the Thai-Burmese border. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 4 (11), pp. e888. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Fever in pregnancy is dangerous for both mother and foetus. In the 1980's malaria was the leading cause of death in pregnant women in refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border. Artemisinin combination therapy has significantly reduced the incidence of malaria in the population. The remaining causes of fever in pregnancy are not well documented. METHODOLOGY: Pregnant women attending antenatal care, where weekly screening for malaria is routine, were invited to have a comprehensive clinical and laboratory screen if they had fever. Women were admitted to hospital, treated and followed up weekly until delivery. A convalescent serum was collected on day 21. Delivery outcomes were recorded. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Febrile episodes (n = 438) occurred in 5.0% (409/8,117) of pregnant women attending antenatal clinics from 7-Jan-2004 to 17-May-2006. The main cause was malaria in 55.5% (227/409). A cohort of 203 (49.6% of 409) women had detailed fever investigations and follow up. Arthropod-borne (malaria, rickettsial infections, and dengue) and zoonotic disease (leptospirosis) accounted for nearly half of all febrile illnesses, 47.3% (96/203). Coinfection was observed in 3.9% (8/203) of women, mostly malaria and rickettsia. Pyelonephritis, 19.7% (40/203), was also a common cause of fever. Once malaria, pyelonephritis and acute respiratory illness are excluded by microscopy and/or clinical findings, one-third of the remaining febrile infections will be caused by rickettsia or leptospirosis. Scrub and murine typhus were associated with poor pregnancy outcomes including stillbirth and low birth weight. One woman died (no positive laboratory tests). CONCLUSION/SIGNIFICANCE: Malaria remains the leading cause of fever in pregnancy on the Thai-Burmese border. Scrub and murine typhus were also important causes of fever associated with poor pregnancy outcomes. Febrile pregnant women on the Thai-Burmese border who do not have malaria, pyelonephritis or respiratory tract infection should be treated with azithromycin, effective for typhus and leptospirosis.

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Koh GCKW, Maude RJ, Paris DH, Newton PN, Blacksell SD. 2010. Review: Diagnosis of scrub typhus American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 82 (3), pp. 368-370. | Show Abstract | Read more

Scrub typhus is transmitted by trombiculid mites and is endemic to East and Southeast Asia and Northern Australia. The clinical syndrome classically consists of a fever, rash, and eschar, but scrub typhus also commonly presents as an undifferentiated fever that requires laboratory confirmation of the diagnosis, usually by indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA) assay. We discuss the limitations of IFA, debate the value of other methods based on antigen detection and nucleic acid amplification, and outline recommendations for future study. Copyright © 2010 by The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Blacksell SD, Jenjaroen K, Phetsouvanh R, Wuthiekanun V, Day NPJ, Newton PN, Ching W-M. 2010. Accuracy of AccessBio Immunoglobulin M and Total Antibody Rapid Immunochromatographic Assays for the Diagnosis of Acute Scrub Typhus Infection. Clin Vaccine Immunol, 17 (2), pp. 263-266. | Show Abstract | Read more

Using archived samples, we assessed the diagnostic capacity of a rapid immunochromatographic test (ICT) for the detection of Orientia tsutsugamushi IgM and total antibodies to aid with the diagnosis of acute scrub typhus infection in febrile patients in Laos. The sensitivity and the specificity of the ICT for the detection of IgM were 96.8% (121/125 samples; 95% confidence interval [CI], 92.1 to 99.1%) and 93.3% (98/105 samples; 95% CI, 86.7 to 97.3%), respectively. For the detection of total antibodies, the sensitivity was 97.6% (122/125 samples; 95% CI, 93.1 to 99.5%), but the specificity was much lower, at 71.4% (75/105 samples; 95% CI, 61.8 to 79.8%).

Conlan JV, Vongxay K, Fenwick S, Blacksell SD, Thompson RCA. 2009. Does interspecific competition have a moderating effect on Taenia solium transmission dynamics in Southeast Asia? Trends Parasitol, 25 (9), pp. 398-403. | Show Abstract | Read more

It is well understood that sociocultural practices strongly influence Taenia solium transmission; however, the extent to which interspecific parasite competition moderates Taenia transmission has yet to be determined. This is certainly the case in Southeast Asia where T. solium faces competition in both the definitive host (people) and the intermediate host (pigs). In people, adult worms of T. solium, T. saginata and T. asiatica compete through density-dependent crowding mechanisms. In pigs, metacestodes of T. solium, T. hydatigena and T. asiatica compete through density-dependent immune-mediated interactions. Here, we describe the biological and epidemiological implications of Taenia competition and propose that interspecific competition has a moderating effect on the transmission dynamics of T. solium in the region. Furthermore, we argue that this competitive ecological scenario should be considered in future research and surveillance activities examining T. solium cysticercosis and taeniasis in Southeast Asia.

Conlan JV, Khounsy S, Blacksell SD, Morrissy CJ, Wilks CR, Gleeson LJ. 2009. Development and evaluation of a rapid immunomagnetic bead assay for the detection of classical swine fever virus antigen. Trop Anim Health Prod, 41 (6), pp. 913-920. | Show Abstract | Read more

Classical swine fever (CSF) is a highly contagious and severe viral disease of swine resulting in substantial production losses in different farming systems in many regions of the world. The accurate and rapid detection of CSF outbreaks is reliant on sensitive and specific laboratory testing and is a key component of disease control. Specific detection of CSF virus can be achieved by virus isolation in tissue culture, antigen capture or the detection of viral RNA using molecular techniques. In order to reduce the time taken to achieve a diagnostic result and simplify testing methods, an antigen capture ELISA using immunomagnetic beads (IMB) as the solid phase was developed and compared to a microplate-based antigen capture (AC)-ELISA. The IMB-ELISA has up to 64-fold greater analytical sensitivity than the AC-ELISA and initial estimates of diagnostic sensitivity and specificity are 100%. The IMB-ELISA has a highly robust, rapid and stable test format and is simpler to perform than the AC-ELISA. The IMB-ELISA has the added advantage that a result can be sensitively and specifically determined by eye, lending it to the possibility of adaptation to a near-to-field test with minimal equipment or expertise needed.

Siengsanan J, Chaichoune K, Phonaknguen R, Sariya L, Prompiram P, Kocharin W, Tangsudjai S, Suwanpukdee S, Wiriyarat W, Pattanarangsan R et al. 2009. Comparison of outbreaks of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds and poultry in Thailand. J Wildl Dis, 45 (3), pp. 740-747. | Show Abstract | Read more

Wild bird surveillance for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus from 2004 to 2007 in Thailand indicated that the prevalence of infection with avian influenza H5N1 virus in wild birds was low (1.0%, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.7-1.2, 60/6,263 pooled samples). However, the annual prevalence varied considerably over this period, with a peak of 2.7% (95% CI: 1.4, 4.1) in 2004. Prevalence dropped to 0.5% (95% CI: 0.3, 0.8]) and 0.6% (95% CI: 0.3, 1.0) in 2005 and 2006, respectively, and then increased to 1.8% (95% CI: 1.0, 2.6) in 2007. During this period, 16 species from 12 families of wild birds tested positive for H5N1 virus infection. All samples from juvenile birds were negative for H5N1 virus, whereas 0.6% (95% CI: 0.4, 0.9) of pooled samples from adult birds were positive. Most positive samples originated from peridomestic resident species. Infected wild bird samples were only found in provinces where poultry outbreaks had occurred. Detection of H5N1 virus infection in wild birds was reported up to 3 yr after eradication of the poultry outbreaks in those provinces. As observed with outbreaks in poultry, the frequencies of H5N1 outbreaks in wild birds were significantly higher in winter. Further understanding of the mechanisms of persistence and ongoing HPAI H5N1 transmission between wild birds and domestic poultry is needed.

McGready R, Blacksell SD, Luksameetanasan R, Wuthiekanun V, Jedsadapanpong W, Day NPJ, Nosten F. 2010. First report of an Orientia tsutsugamushi type TA716-related scrub typhus infection in Thailand. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis, 10 (2), pp. 191-193. | Show Abstract | Read more

Orientia tsutsugamushi causes scrub typhus and is a rural zoonosis endemic in the Asia Pacific region. This is the first report of O. tsutsugamushi TA716-like strain in a human in Thailand. The patient was in the 1st trimester of pregnancy when she developed scrub typhus. The O. tsutsugamushi strain TA716 was detected from her admission blood sample, and the pregnancy ended in spontaneous abortion. The effects of scrub typhus in pregnant women and the pregnancy outcome are sparsely documented in the published medical literature. Improved clinical recognition and laboratory diagnosis will be essential to better define the morbidity caused by this zoonosis especially in pregnancy.

Khounsy S, Conlan JV, Gleeson LJ, Westbury HA, Colling A, Paton DJ, Ferris NP, Valarcher J-F, Wadsworth J, Knowles NJ, Blacksell SD. 2009. Molecular epidemiology of foot-and-mouth disease viruses from South East Asia 1998-2006: the Lao perspective. Vet Microbiol, 137 (1-2), pp. 178-183. | Show Abstract | Read more

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) causes sporadic disease outbreaks in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) and appears to be endemic within a livestock population largely susceptible to infection. As Lao PDR is a major thoroughfare for transboundary animal movement, regular FMD outbreaks occur causing economic hardship for farmers and their families. The dominant serotype causing outbreaks between 1998 and 2006 was type O. Using phylogenetic analysis, type O isolated viruses were divided into two topotypes: South East Asia (SEA) and the Middle East-South Asia (ME-SA). Type A virus was reported only in 2003 and 2006 and type Asia 1 only in 1996 and 1998.

Paris DH, Aukkanit N, Jenjaroen K, Blacksell SD, Day NPJ. 2009. A highly sensitive quantitative real-time PCR assay based on the groEL gene of contemporary Thai strains of Orientia tsutsugamushi. Clin Microbiol Infect, 15 (5), pp. 488-495. | Show Abstract | Read more

Partial nucleotide sequences (459 bp) of the groEL gene (encoding the 60-kDa heat shock protein, HSP60) from 23 contemporary isolates of Orientia tsutsugamushi isolated from patients with acute scrub typhus in Thailand were compared with 16 reference strain sequences to evaluate the potential of groEL as a conserved and representative target for molecular diagnostics.. Overall nucleotide identity within all available O. tsutsugamushi isolates (n = 39) was 98.8% (range: 95.0-100), reflecting a high degree of conservation; nucleotide identities were 67.5% and 65.6%, respectively, when typhus and spotted fever group rickettsiae were included.. A highly sensitive and quantitative real-time PCR assay was designed and evaluated using 61 samples, including buffy coats from patients in Thailand and Laos. Reliable and accurate quantitation of bacterial loads allows further investigation of other diagnostic methods and may lead to an improved understanding of the pathophysiology of acute scrub typhus, an important but under-recognized disease.

Phetsouvanh R, Blacksell SD, Jenjaroen K, Day NPJ, Newton PN. 2009. Comparison of indirect immunofluorescence assays for diagnosis of scrub typhus and murine typhus using venous blood and finger prick filter paper blood spots. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 80 (5), pp. 837-840. | Show Abstract

We performed indirect immunofluorescence assays (IFAs) to compare levels of IgM and IgG antibodies to Orientia tsutsugamushi and Rickettsia typhi in admission-phase serum samples and filter paper blood spots (assayed immediately and stored at 5.4 degrees C and 29 degrees C for 30 days) collected on the same day from 53 adults with suspected scrub typhus and murine typhus admitted to Mahosot Hospital Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic. The sensitivities and specificities of admission-phase filter paper blood spots in comparison to paired sera were between 91% and 95% and 87% and 100%, respectively, for the diagnosis of scrub typhus and murine typhus. The classification of patients as having or not having typhus did not significantly differ after storage of the blood spots for 30 days (P > 0.4) at 5.4 degrees C and 29 degrees C. Because filter paper blood samples do not require sophisticated and expensive storage and transport, they may be an appropriate specimen collection technique for the diagnosis of rickettsial disease in the rural tropics.

Blacksell SD, Khounsy S, Conlan JV, Gleeson LJ, Colling A, Westbury HA. 2008. Foot and mouth disease in the Lao People's Democratic Republic: II. Seroprevalence estimates, using structured surveillance and surveys of abattoirs. Rev Sci Tech, 27 (3), pp. 851-859. | Show Abstract | Read more

An examination of the seroprevalence of foot and mouth disease (FMD) virus was conducted in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) from 1996 to 2005, using structured surveillance and abattoir-based studies. Under structured surveillance, seropositivity ranged from 65.7% (Vientiane Capital, 1996) to 3% (Houaphan, 2005) for cattle and buffalo; and from 2.8% (Vientiane Capital, 1998) to 0% in separate studies of pigs. In each study, species composition was significantly associated with seroprevalence rates. For abattoir surveys, the majority of samples (60.5%) came from Vientiane Capital (33.0%), Savannakhet (14.0%) and Champasak (13.5%) provinces. The overall proportion of animals testing positive for the presence of antibodies against the FMD virus was 18.7% (ranging from 50.8% in Vientiane Province to 1% in Phongsali). Generally, antibodies against serotype O were the most prevalent. Cattle and buffalo that tested as seropositive were significantly older than the seronegative animals (p < 0.00005). The overall proportional seropositivity was significantly different for different species, as was the case with the antibodies against serotypes O, A and Asia 1. Some 22% of cattle, 55% of buffalo and 23% of pigs demonstrated seropositivity but this varied significantly between provinces.

Khounsy S, Conlan JV, Gleeson LJ, Westbury HA, Colling A, Paton DJ, Knowles NJ, Ferris NP, Blacksell SD. 2008. Foot and mouth disease in the Lao People's Democratic Republic: I. A review of recent outbreaks and lessons from control programmes. Rev Sci Tech, 27 (3), pp. 839-849. | Show Abstract | Read more

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) causes sporadic disease outbreaks in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). As the Lao PDR is a major thoroughfare for transboundary animal movements, regular FMD outbreaks occur, causing economic hardship for farmers and their families. In this review of the recent history of FMD in the Lao PDR between 1997 and 2006, the authors examine the virological and epidemiological aspects of the disease and appropriate control measures, including the distribution of outbreaks, causative serotypes and the molecular epidemiology of the viruses, as well as large-scale vaccination programmes. The dominant serotype, type O, was reported every year from 1998 to 2005. The majority of outbreaks occurred in Vientiane Capital (n = 42; 28%) and the highest number of outbreaks were reported in cattle (n = 94; 61%); followed by buffalo (n = 41; 27%) and pigs (n = 18; 12%). All type A outbreaks occurred in cattle. Type Asia 1 outbreaks were reported in the central provinces around Vientiane Capital between 1996 and 1998.

Paris DH, Blacksell SD, Newton PN, Day NPJ. 2008. Simple, rapid and sensitive detection of Orientia tsutsugamushi by loop-isothermal DNA amplification. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 102 (12), pp. 1239-1246. | Show Abstract | Read more

We present a loop-mediated isothermal PCR assay (LAMP) targeting the groEL gene, which encodes the 60kDa heat shock protein of Orientia tsutsugamushi. Evaluation included testing of 63 samples of contemporary in vitro isolates, buffy coats and whole blood samples from patients with fever. Detection limits for LAMP were assessed by serial dilutions and quantitation by real-time PCR assay based on the same target gene: three copies/microl for linearized plasmids, 26 copies/microl for VERO cell culture isolates, 14 copies/microl for full blood samples and 41 copies/microl for clinical buffy coats. Based on a limited sample number, the LAMP assay is comparable in sensitivity with conventional nested PCR (56kDa gene), with limits of detection well below the range of known admission bacterial loads of patients with scrub typhus. This inexpensive method requires no sophisticated equipment or sample preparation, and may prove useful as a diagnostic assay in financially poor settings; however, it requires further prospective validation in the field setting.

Parola P, Blacksell SD, Phetsouvanh R, Phongmany S, Rolain J-M, Day NPJ, Newton PN, Raoult D. 2008. Genotyping of Orientia tsutsugamushi from humans with scrub typhus, Laos. Emerg Infect Dis, 14 (9), pp. 1483-1485. | Read more

Conlan J, Khounsy S, Inthavong P, Fenwick S, Blacksell S, Thompson RCA. 2008. A review of taeniasis and cysticercosis in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Parasitol Int, 57 (3), pp. 252-255. | Show Abstract | Read more

Taeniasis and cysticercosis are important but underreported parasitic zoonoses in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). Reports of human and pig cysticercosis are rather limited and based largely on anecdotal evidence. To date, no structured surveys of disease prevalence or incidence have been reported. However, one unpublished pilot survey of pig cysticercosis in a slaughterhouse in northern Laos estimated prevalence to be 1.7%, without speciation of parasite cysts. Over the past 20 years, nine surveys of intestinal helminthic infection have been conducted; the prevalence of human taeniasis ranged from 0 to 14.0%. The study designs and sample sizes varied greatly, however a high degree of spatial and age variation in taeniasis prevalence was evident. These results are however inconclusive as the species of tapeworm infecting the people was not determined. To further our knowledge of taeniasis and cysticercosis in Lao PDR, structured community-based surveys in high-risk areas are required in combination with the use of sensitive and specific diagnostic tests capable of identifying the pork tapeworm, Taenia solium. This will enable the development and implementation of control measures that are both appropriate and sustainable if T. solium is shown to be a public health threat.

Blacksell SD, Luksameetanasan R, Kalambaheti T, Wutheikanun V, Cheirakul W, Paris DH, Chueasuwanchai S, McGready R, Peacock SJ, Day NPJ. 2008. Phylogenetic and antigenic analysis of Orientia tsutsugamushi isolated from scrub typhus patients in Thailand INFECTION GENETICS AND EVOLUTION, 8 (4), pp. S11-S11.

Paris DH, Jenjaroen K, Blacksell SD, Phetsouvanh R, Wuthiekanun V, Newton PN, Day NPJ, Turner GDH. 2008. Differential patterns of endothelial and leucocyte activation in 'typhus-like' illnesses in Laos and Thailand. Clin Exp Immunol, 153 (1), pp. 63-67. | Show Abstract | Read more

Scrub typhus is responsible for a large proportion of undifferentiated fevers in south-east Asia. The cellular tropism and pathophysiology of the causative agent, Orientia tsutsugamushi, remain poorly understood. We measured endothelial and leucocyte activation by soluble cell adhesion molecule enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays in 242 Lao and Thai patients with scrub or murine typhus, leptospirosis, dengue, typhoid and uncomplicated falciparum malaria on admission to hospital. Soluble E-selectin (sE-selectin) levels were lowest in dengue, sL-selectin highest in scrub typhus with a high sE-selectin to sL-selectin ratio in leptospirosis patients. In scrub typhus patients elevated sL-selectin levels correlated with the duration of skin rash (P = 0.03) and the presence of eschar (P = 0.03), elevated white blood cell (WBC) count (P = 0.007), elevated lymphocyte (P = 0.007) and neutrophil counts (P = 0.015) and elevated levels of sE-selectin correlated with the duration of illness before admission (P = 0.03), the presence of lymphadenopathy (P = 0.033) and eschar (P = 0.03), elevated WBC (P = 0.005) and neutrophil counts (P = 0.0003). In comparison, soluble selectin levels in murine typhus patients correlated only with elevated WBC counts (P = 0.03 for sE-selectin and sL-selectin). Soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and soluble vascular adhesion molecule-1 levels were not associated significantly with any clinical parameters in scrub or murine typhus patients. The data presented suggest mononuclear cell activation in scrub typhus. As adhesion molecules direct leucocyte migration and induce inflammatory and immune responses, this may represent O. tsutsugamushi tropism during early dissemination, or local immune activation within the eschar.

Blacksell SD, Luksameetanasan R, Kalambaheti T, Aukkanit N, Paris DH, McGready R, Nosten F, Peacock SJ, Day NPJ. 2008. Genetic typing of the 56-kDa type-specific antigen gene of contemporary Orientia tsutsugamushi isolates causing human scrub typhus at two sites in north-eastern and western Thailand. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol, 52 (3), pp. 335-342. | Show Abstract | Read more

Orientia tsutsugamushi is the causative agent of scrub typhus, a major cause of febrile illness in the rural areas of Southeast Asia. Twenty-three strains of O. tsutsugamushi were isolated from patients with scrub typhus in north-east (Udorn Thani province) and western Thailand (Tak province) between 2003 and 2005. The isolates were characterized by sequencing the entire ORF of the 56-kDa-type-specific antigen gene, followed by phylogenetic analysis. The majority (15/23) of isolates clustered with the Karp-type strain, six with a Gilliam-type strain and one each with the TA716- and TA763-type strains. Overall, there was considerable diversity in sequence, comparable to that seen in strains from across the rest of the scrub typhus-endemic world. There was no significant difference in the distributions of strains between the two provinces (P=0.08, Fisher's exact) nor a temporal change in distribution with year of isolation (P=0.80, Fisher's exact). Within this diversity there were also examples of isolates with identical 56-kDa genotypes that were cultured from patients from the same geographical areas.

Paris DH, Blacksell SD, Stenos J, Graves SR, Unsworth NB, Phetsouvanh R, Newton PN, Day NPJ. 2008. Real-time multiplex PCR assay for detection and differentiation of rickettsiae and orientiae. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 102 (2), pp. 186-193. | Show Abstract | Read more

The high incidence of rickettsial diseases in Southeast Asia necessitates rapid and accurate diagnostic tools for a broad range of rickettsial agents, including Orientia tsutsugamushi (scrub typhus) and Rickettsia typhi (murine typhus), but also spotted fever group infections, which are increasingly reported. We present an SYBR-Green-based, real-time multiplex PCR assay for rapid identification and differentiation of scrub typhus group, typhus group and spotted fever group rickettsiae using 47kDa, gltA and ompB gene targets. Detection limits for amplification of these genes in reference strains ranged from 24 copies/microl, 5 copies/microl and 1 copy/microl in multiplex and 2 copies/microl, 1 copy/microl and 1 copy/microl in single template format, respectively. Differentiation by melt-curve analysis led to distinct melt temperatures for each group-specific amplicon. The assay was subjected to 54 samples, of which all cell-culture and 75% of characterised clinical buffy coat samples were correctly identified. Real-time PCR has the advantage of reliably detecting and differentiating rickettsial and orientia cell-culture isolates in a single-template assay, compared with the more time-consuming and laborious immunofluorescence assay. However, further optimisation and validation on samples taken directly from patients to assess its clinical diagnostic utility is required.

Paris DH, Blacksell SD, Newton PN, Day NPJ. 2008. Simple, rapid and sensitive detection of Orientia tsutsugamushi by loop-isothermal DNA amplification Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene,

Blacksell SD, Mammen MP, Thongpaseuth S, Gibbons RV, Jarman RG, Jenjaroen K, Nisalak A, Phetsouvanh R, Newton PN, Day NPJ. 2008. Evaluation of the Panbio dengue virus nonstructural 1 antigen detection and immunoglobulin M antibody enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays for the diagnosis of acute dengue infections in Laos. Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis, 60 (1), pp. 43-49. | Show Abstract | Read more

We evaluated 2 commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) for the diagnosis of dengue infection; one a serologic test for immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies, the other based on detection of dengue virus nonstructural 1 (NS1) antigen. Using gold standard reference serology on paired sera, 41% (38/92 patients) were dengue confirmed, with 4 (11%) acute primary and 33 (87%) acute secondary infections (1 was of indeterminate status). Sensitivity of the NS1-ELISA was 63% (95% confidence interval [CI], 53-73) on admission samples but was much less sensitive (5%; 95% CI, 1-10) on convalescent samples. The IgM capture ELISA had a lower but statistically equivalent sensitivity compared with the NS1-ELISA for admission samples (45%; 95% CI, 35-55) but was more sensitive on convalescent samples (58%; 95% CI, 48-68). The results of the NS1 and IgM capture ELISAs were combined using a logical OR operator, increasing the sensitivity for admission samples (79%; 95% CI, 71-87), convalescent samples (63%; 95% CI, 53-73), and all samples (71%; 95% CI, 65-78).

Blacksell SD, Bell D, Kelley J, Mammen MP, Gibbons RV, Jarman RG, Vaughn DW, Jenjaroen K, Nisalak A, Thongpaseuth S et al. 2007. Prospective study to determine accuracy of rapid serological assays for diagnosis of acute dengue virus infection in Laos. Clin Vaccine Immunol, 14 (11), pp. 1458-1464. | Show Abstract | Read more

There is an urgent need for accurate and simple dengue virus infection diagnostic assays in limited-resource settings of dengue endemicity, to assist patient management. Using a panel of reference samples (S. D. Blacksell, P. N. Newton, D. Bell, J. Kelley, M. P. Mammen, D. W. Vaughn, V. Wuthiekanun, A. Sungkakum, A. Nisalak, and N. P. Day, Clin. Infect. Dis. 42:1127-1134, 2006), we recently evaluated eihgt commercially available immunochromatographic rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) designed to detect dengue virus-specific immunoglobulin M (IgM) and/or IgG. We found that 6/8 RDTs had sensitivities of less than 50% (range, 6 to 65%), but specificities were generally high. Here, in conjuction with dengue virus serotyping by reverse transcriptase PCR and in the limited-resource setting of Laos, where dengue virus is endemic, we evaluated the same eight RDTs against a previously validated dengue IgM/IgG enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for diagnosis of acute dengue virus infection. Paired serum samples were collected from 87 patients, of whom 38 had confirmed dengue virus infections (4 had primary infections, 33 had secondary infections, and 1 had an infection of indeterminate status). RDT sensitivity was low, with 7/8 RDTs having admission sample sensitivities of less than 20% (range, 4 to 26%). The majority (6/8) of the RDTs, demonstrated high specificity (>95%). Kappa statistic values ranged from 6 to 54% for the RDTs, demonstrating poor to moderate variation between three operators. No RDT adequately differentiated between primary and secondary dengue virus infections. The findings of this study suggest that currently available RDTs based on the detection of IgM antibodies for the diagnosis of acute dengue virus infections are unlikely to be useful for patient management.

Antarasena C, Sirimujalin R, Prommuang P, Promkuntod N, Prommuang P, Blacksell SD. 2007. The indirect immunofluorescence assay using cardiac tissue from chickens, quails and ducks for identification of influenza A virus during an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (H5N1): a rapid and simple screening tool for limited resource settings. Res Vet Sci, 83 (2), pp. 279-281. | Show Abstract | Read more

Here we describe the diagnostic utility of the indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA) during a recent outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) subtype H5N1 virus in southern Thailand and demonstrate the usefulness of the cardiac tissue from infected chickens, quail, and ducks for diagnosis. The most reliable sample for IFA diagnosis of influenza A virus was cardiac tissue (83.0%; 44/53) which when divided by species (chicken, quail and duck cardiac tissues) gave respective positivity rates of 88% (22/25), 88.9% (16/18) and 60.0% (6/10). Cardiac tissue also gave the highest IFA intensity for the three species. We believe that the IFA method has wide applicability in developing countries or remote settings where clinically similar avian diseases with high morbidity and mortality such as Newcastle disease and fowl cholera are common and could be rapidly excluded thereby conserving valuable reference laboratory capacity for true HPAI outbreaks.

Blacksell SD, Sharma NP, Phumratanaprapin W, Jenjaroen K, Peacock SJ, White NJ, Pukrittayakamee S, Day NPJ. 2007. Serological and blood culture investigations of Nepalese fever patients. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 101 (7), pp. 686-690. | Show Abstract | Read more

Serological testing of paired (i.e. admission and convalescent) sera from 103 fever patients in Kathmandu, Nepal, was performed to estimate the prevalence rates of scrub typhus, murine typhus, Leptospira and dengue virus antibodies and to determine their role in the cause of active infections. Blood cultures from 15 patients grew Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi, 8 grew S. Paratyphi A and 6 grew other bacteria. Diagnostic antibody levels were detected against murine typhus (27/103; 26%), scrub typhus (23/103; 22%), Leptospira (10/103; 10%) and dengue virus (8/103; 8%). Nineteen patients (18%) had diagnostically raised antibodies to more than one infectious agent. Seven S. Typhi (7/15; 47%) and two S. Paratyphi A (2/8; 25%) patients had significant scrub typhus, murine typhus, Leptospira or dengue virus IgM antibody titres. This study confirms the presence of leptospiral, rickettsial and dengue infections in Kathmandu as well as evidence for mixed infections with S. Typhi and Orientia tsutsugamushi or Rickettsia typhi. These infections should be kept in mind when considering the differential diagnoses of fever and empirical treatment options in Nepal. Many patients demonstrated static IgM antibody results between paired serum collections, suggesting recent rather than acutely active infections.

Wangroongsarb P, Chanket T, Gunlabun K, Long DH, Satheanmethakul P, Jetanadee S, Thaipadungpanit J, Wuthiekanun V, Peacock SJ, Blacksell SD et al. 2007. Molecular typing of Leptospira spp. based on putative O-antigen polymerase gene (wzy), the benefit over 16S rRNA gene sequence. FEMS Microbiol Lett, 271 (2), pp. 170-179. | Show Abstract | Read more

Molecular typing of leptospiral strains based on variation within putative O-antigen polymerase gene (wzy) was determined among reference strains and those isolated from patients. Using the PCR primers designed from the flanking gene of wzy derived from Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni, all L. interrogans serovars as well as human and rodent leptospiral isolates from Thailand could be amplified. The size of PCR product ranged from 1 to 1.5 kb. The limitation of these primer pairs was the inability to amplify those strains whose sequences differ in the region of the primers, these included Leptospira biflexa (serovar Patoc), Leptospira borgpetersenii (serovar Tarassovi) and Leptospira kirschneri (serovar Bim, Bulgarica, Butembo). Notably, amplification was not limited to L. interrogans as demonstrated by the amplification of some strains from L. kirschneri, Leptospira meyeri, Leptospira noguchii, Leptospira santarosai, L. borgpetersenii and Leptospira weilii. The phylogenetic tree of wzy sequence, inferred by posterior probability of the Bayesian, enabled the categorization of leptospiral serovars into seven genetically related group, of which its differentiation power was better than that of the more highly conserved 16S rRNA gene, which is used extensively for genotyping.

Paris DH, Jenjaroen K, Blacksell SD, Rattanaphone P, Newton PN, Turner GD, Day NP. 2007. Differential patterns of endothelial activation in 'typhus-like' illness TROPICAL MEDICINE & INTERNATIONAL HEALTH, 12 pp. 189-189.

Blacksell SD, Myint KSA, Khounsy S, Phruaravanh M, Mammen MP, Day NPJ, Newton PN. 2007. Prevalence of hepatitis E virus antibodies in pigs: implications for human infections in village-based subsistence pig farming in the Lao PDR. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 101 (3), pp. 305-307. | Show Abstract | Read more

We report a high seroprevalence of hepatitis E virus (HEV) in pigs in the Lao PDR. HEV seroprevalence was 51.2% (300/586) amongst abattoir pigs and 15.3% (46/301) amongst village pigs. The age distribution suggested previous in-village HEV pig infections. These findings suggest a zoonotic risk associated with village-based smallholder pig farming.

Blacksell SD, Bryant NJ, Paris DH, Doust JA, Sakoda Y, Day NPJ. 2007. Scrub typhus serologic testing with the indirect immunofluorescence method as a diagnostic gold standard: a lack of consensus leads to a lot of confusion. Clin Infect Dis, 44 (3), pp. 391-401. | Show Abstract | Read more

A review was performed to determine the evidence base for scrub typhus indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA) methodologies and the criteria for positive results. This review included a total of 109 publications, which comprised 123 eligible studies for analysis (14 publications included 2 substudies). There was considerable underreporting of the IFA methodology and seropositivity criteria used, with most studies using a defined cutoff titer rather than an increase in the titer in paired samples. The choice of positivity cutoff titer varied by country and purpose of the IFA test. This variation limits the comparability of seroprevalence rates between studies and, more seriously, raises questions about the appropriateness of the cutoffs for positive IFA results chosen for diagnosis of acute scrub typhus infection. We suggest that the diagnosis of scrub typhus using IFA should be based on a > or =4-fold increase in the titer in paired serum samples and should only be based on a single sample titer when there is an adequate local evidence base.

Khounsy S, Gleeson LJ, Van Aken D, Westbury HA, Blacksell SD. 2007. Diagnosis of classical swine fever virus in a limited resource setting: the influence of pig breed on methodology and sample selection. Trop Anim Health Prod, 39 (1), pp. 21-25. | Read more

Luksameetanasan R, Blacksell SD, Kalambaheti T, Wuthiekanun V, Chierakul W, Chueasuwanchai S, Apiwattanaporn A, Stenos J, Graves S, Peacock SJ, Day NPJ. 2007. Patient and sample-related factors that effect the success of in vitro isolation of Orientia tsutsugamushi. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health, 38 (1), pp. 91-96. | Show Abstract

Orientia tsutsugamushi is the causative agent of scrub typhus infection, a major cause of human disease in rural areas of Southeast Asia. Twenty-six blood samples collected from patients with serologically proven scrub typhus during a six month period were sent to Bangkok (535 km from the clinical site) by road at ambient temperature (average daily temperature range: 27.1-29.1 degrees C) for attempted in vitro isolation in Vero cells. O. tsutsugamushi was isolated from 12 samples (sensitivity 46.7%) with the time to isolation ranging from 16 to 37 days [median 27 days, inter-quartile range (IQR) 22.5-33.5 days]. Patient factors such as days of fever and O. tsutsugamushi IgM antibody titer, transport factors such as transit time, and isolate genotype (Karp and Gilliam/Kawasaki) were assessed to determine their influence on the outcome of in vitro isolation. None of the factors significantly influenced the isolation outcome. This study demonstrates that O. tsutsugamushi can often be isolated in vitro from the blood of scrub typhus patients when transported at ambient tropical temperatures for many days.

Sonthayanon P, Chierakul W, Wuthiekanun V, Blacksell SD, Pimda K, Suputtamongkol Y, Pukrittayakamee S, White NJ, Day NP, Peacock SJ. 2006. Rapid diagnosis of scrub typhus in rural Thailand using polymerase chain reaction. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 75 (6), pp. 1099-1102. | Show Abstract

The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of the O. tsutsugamushi 16S rRNA gene for the diagnosis of scrub typhus in rural Thailand. A prospective study of acute febrile illness in Udon Thani, northeast Thailand, identified 183 patients as having scrub typhus on the basis of immunofluorescent antibody testing (IFA) of paired sera. A further 366 febrile patients admitted concurrently with a range of other diagnoses acted as negative controls. Diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of 16S rRNA PCR was 44.8% and 99.7%, respectively, compared with IFA. PCR positivity was related to duration of symptoms and presence of eschar (P < 0.001, both cases). PCR using primers to amplify a fragment of the 56-kd gene had a sensitivity and specificity of 29.0% and 99.2%, respectively. PCR has a high specificity but low sensitivity for the rapid diagnosis of scrub typhus in this endemic setting.

Blacksell SD, Khounsy S, Phetsouvanh R, Newton PN. 2006. A simple and inexpensive container for the transport of biological specimens in limited resource situations. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 100 (11), pp. 1084-1086. | Show Abstract | Read more

We describe a diagnostic specimen transport container that is appropriate for limited resource or emergency settings. The transport container is constructed from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plumbing pipe, which is readily available and inexpensive (US$1-2, depending on size) and has wide flexibility of size due to the range of PVC pipe dimensions available. The PVC transporters are durable, water-resistant and may be easily decontaminated. They have been adapted for the transport of blood culture bottles from provincial hospitals in Laos, where, during a 2-year period, 380 PVC tubes containing blood culture bottles were transported without any leakage or breakage. We have found the PVC transporter to be a useful and cost-efficient durable alternative that meets IATA Packing Instruction 650 biological transport container requirements.

Phetsouvanh R, Phongmany S, Soukaloun D, Rasachak B, Soukhaseum V, Soukhaseum S, Frichithavong K, Khounnorath S, Pengdee B, Phiasakha K et al. 2006. Causes of community-acquired bacteremia and patterns of antimicrobial resistance in Vientiane, Laos. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 75 (5), pp. 978-985. | Show Abstract

There is no published information on the causes of bacteremia in the Lao PDR (Laos). Between 2000 and 2004, 4512 blood culture pairs were taken from patients admitted to Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, Laos, with suspected community-acquired bacteremia; 483 (10.7%) cultures grew a clinically significant community-acquired organism, most commonly Salmonella enterica serovar typhi (50.9%), Staphylococcus aureus (19.0%), and Escherichia coli (12.4%). S. aureus bacteremia was common among infants (69.2%), while children 1-5 years had a high frequency of typhoid (44%). Multi-drug-resistant S. Typhi was rare (6%). On multiple logistic regression analysis, typhoid was associated with younger age, longer illness, diarrhea, higher admission temperature, and lower peripheral white blood cell count than non-typhoidal bacteremia. Empirical parenteral ampicillin and gentamicin would have some activity against approximately 88% of clinically significant isolates at a cost of US $1.4/day, an important exception being B. pseudomallei. Bacteremic infants in this setting require an anti-staphylococcal antibiotic.

Blacksell SD, Smythe L, Phetsouvanh R, Dohnt M, Hartskeerl R, Symonds M, Slack A, Vongsouvath M, Davong V, Lattana O et al. 2006. Limited diagnostic capacities of two commercial assays for the detection of Leptospira immunoglobulin M antibodies in Laos. Clin Vaccine Immunol, 13 (10), pp. 1166-1169. | Show Abstract | Read more

The diagnostic utility of immunochromatographic (Leptotek) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA; Panbio) tests for the detection of Leptospira immunoglobulin M antibodies was assessed in febrile adults admitted in Vientiane, Laos. Both tests demonstrated poor diagnostic accuracy using admission serum (Leptotek sensitivity of 47.3% and specificity of 75.5%: ELISA sensitivity of 60.9% and specificity of 65.6%) compared to the Leptospira "gold standard" microscopic agglutination test.

Blacksell SD, Doust JA, Newton PN, Peacock SJ, Day NPJ, Dondorp AM. 2006. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the diagnostic accuracy of rapid immunochromatographic assays for the detection of dengue virus IgM antibodies during acute infection. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 100 (8), pp. 775-784. | Show Abstract | Read more

A meta-analysis of rapid (</=60 min) dengue diagnostic assays was conducted to determine accuracy and identify causes of between-study heterogeneity. A systematic review identified 302 potentially suitable studies, of which 11 were selected for meta-analysis. All selected studies evaluated the immunochromatographic test (ICT) manufactured by Panbio Pty Ltd. Individual study results for sensitivity ranged from 0.45 to 1.0, specificity 0.57-1.0, diagnostic odds ratio 4.5-1287, and positive:negative likelihood ratios 2.3-59 and 0.01-0.56, respectively. Results indicated that the ICT evaluated in the selected studies can both rule in and rule out disease but is more accurate when samples are collected later in the acute phase of infection. Limitations of this meta-analysis were significant between-study heterogeneity caused by inconsistencies in evaluation methodologies, and the evaluation of only the Panbio ICT. It is recommended that additional, standardized evaluations are required for other dengue ICTs.

Antarasena C, Sirimujalin R, Prommuang P, Blacksell SD, Promkuntod N, Prommuang P. 2006. Tissue tropism of a Thailand strain of high-pathogenicity avian influenza virus (H5N1) in tissues of naturally infected native chickens (Gallus gallus), Japanese quail (Coturnix coturnix japonica) and ducks (Anas spp.). Avian Pathol, 35 (3), pp. 250-253. | Show Abstract | Read more

The tropism of a Thailand strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus was demonstrated on tissues (lung, trachea, heart, liver, spleen, pancreas, rectum, kidney, brain, skeletal muscle, duodenum, and oviduct) from naturally infected native chickens (Gallus gallus), Japanese quail (Coturnix coturnix japonica) and ducks (Anas spp.) by indirect immunofluorescence assay. In chickens and quail, the distribution and localization of nucleoprotein viral antigen was similar and detected at the highest level in cardiac myocytes, at 88% (chickens) and 89% (quail), and respiratory, digestive and urinary systems all showed high levels of antigen. Antigen in duck tissues were detected at significantly lower levels (P < 0.05) with the exception of brain and skeletal muscle samples. In most cases, antigen in duck tissue was absent in the digestive organs but present in respiratory organs, which supports the hypothesis that aerosol and oral-oral transmission are the main method of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus transmission from this species.

Sirigul C, Wongwit W, Phanprasit W, Paveenkittiporn W, Blacksell SD, Ramasoota P. 2006. Development of a combined air sampling and quantitative real-time PCR method for detection of Legionella spp. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health, 37 (3), pp. 503-507. | Show Abstract

The objective of this study was to develop and optimize the combined methods of air sampling and real time polymerase chain reaction (real-time PCR) for quantifying aerosol Legionella spp. Primers and TaqMan hydrolysis probe based on 5S rRNA gene specific for Legionella spp were used to amplify a specific DNA product of 84 bp. The impinger air sampler plus T-100 sampling pump was used to collect aerosol Legionella and as low as 10 fg of Legionella DNA per reaction could detected. Preliminary studies demonstrated that the developed method could detect aerosol Legionella spp 1.5-185 organisms /500 l of air within 5 hours, in contrast to culture method, that required a minimum of 7-10 days.

Blacksell SD, Newton PN, Bell D, Kelley J, Mammen MP, Vaughn DW, Wuthiekanun V, Sungkakum A, Nisalak A, Day NPJ. 2006. The comparative accuracy of 8 commercial rapid immunochromatographic assays for the diagnosis of acute dengue virus infection. Clin Infect Dis, 42 (8), pp. 1127-1134. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The serological diagnosis of acute dengue virus infection relies on the detection of dengue-specific immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies. Immunochromatographic tests are rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) that can be performed at the bedside, but they have not been fully validated for diagnosis of dengue infection. METHODS: More than 20 RDTs for diagnosis of acute dengue infection are commercially available. Of these, 8 were selected for evaluation of performance by use of characterized dengue and nondengue serum specimens, and results were compared with those of a previously published dengue IgM/IgG enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in conjunction with dengue virus serotyping by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. RESULTS: Assay sensitivities were low, ranging from 6.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 4.0%-9.7%) to 65.3% (95% CI, 59.9%-70.5%), and specificities ranged from 69.1% (95% CI, 61.4%-76.0%) to 100% (95% CI, 97.8%-100%). Of the 8 tests, only 2 had sensitivities of >50%, the level considered to be clinically useful, and, of these, 1 had relatively low specificity (69.1%). Samples collected early in the infection were less likely to test positive than those collected later. A thermal stability study demonstrated a loss in performance of some RDTs when they were stored at a high ambient temperature for 3 months. CONCLUSIONS: Users of RDTs for dengue should be aware that many of these tests have a diagnostic accuracy that falls well below the manufacturers' claims. If an acute specimen yields a negative result, a convalescent serum sample should be tested to confirm the result. No RDT adequately differentiated primary and secondary dengue infections, and the tests should not be used for this purpose.

Phongmany S, Rolain J-M, Phetsouvanh R, Blacksell SD, Soukkhaseum V, Rasachack B, Phiasakha K, Soukkhaseum S, Frichithavong K, Chu V et al. 2006. Rickettsial infections and fever, Vientiane, Laos. Emerg Infect Dis, 12 (2), pp. 256-262. | Show Abstract | Read more

Rickettsial diseases have not been described previously from Laos, but in a prospective study, acute rickettsial infection was identified as the cause of fever in 115 (27%) of 427 adults with negative blood cultures admitted to Mahosot Hospital in Vientiane, Laos. The organisms identified by serologic analysis were Orientia tsutsugamushi (14.8%), Rickettsia typhi (9.6%), and spotted fever group rickettsia (2.6% [8 R. helvetica, 1 R. felis, 1 R. conorii subsp. indica, and 1 Rickettsia "AT1"]). Patients with murine typhus had a lower frequency of peripheral lymphadenopathy than those with scrub typhus (3% vs. 46%, p<0.001). Rickettsioses are an underrecognized cause of undifferentiated febrile illnesses among adults in Laos. This finding has implications for the local empiric treatment of fever.

Blacksell SD. 2006. Serological and clinical diagnosis of dengue virus infection - A review of current knowledge Australian Journal of Medical Science, 27 (1), pp. 26-33. | Show Abstract

Dengue fever, dengue haemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome are tropical diseases that cause significant disease burden. It is estimated that more than 2.5 billion people are at risk of infection and more than 100 countries have endemic dengue virus transmission. This paper reviews the available serological assays for the diagnosis of acute dengue virus infection, differentiation of primary and later infections, and their appropriate application depending on the setting. Dengue clinical syndromes and diagnostic criteria are also described.

Blacksell SD. 2006. Laboratory diagnosis of tropical infections Australian Journal of Medical Science, 27 (1), pp. 3.

Burford B, Blacksell SD. 2006. Diagnosis and management of tropical infections in travellers and expatriates at the Australian Embassy Clinic, Laos: Experience in a limited-resource environment Australian Journal of Medical Science, 27 (1), pp. 34-38. | Show Abstract

The Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is located in South East Asia bordered by Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and China. There is a large resident expatriate community as well as many foreign travellers. Health care resources available to this population are limited to a few embassy-based clinics. This review presents a perspective on managing tropical infections in the context of an expatriate clinic in the Lao PDR. Patients present with a variety of tropical infections and are often treated presumptively with minimal local laboratory support. Other laboratory tests that may be helpful to make an accurate diagnosis are detailed and discussed.

Blacksell SD, Khounsy S, Van Aken D, Gleeson LJ, Westbury HA. 2006. Comparative susceptibility of indigenous and improved pig breeds to Classical swine fever virus infection: practical and epidemiological implications in a subsistence-based, developing country setting. Trop Anim Health Prod, 38 (6), pp. 467-474. | Show Abstract | Read more

This study investigated the comparative susceptibility of indigenous Moo Laat and improved Large White/Landrace pig breeds to infection with classical swine fever virus (CSFV) under controlled conditions in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). The Moo Laat (ML) and Large White/Landrace cross-breed (LWC) pigs were inoculated with a standard challenge strain designated Lao/Kham225 (infectivity titre of 10(2.75) TCID50/ml). The results demonstrated that both the native breed and an improved pig breed are fully susceptible to CSFV infection and the mortality rate is high. LWC pigs demonstrated lower (or shorter) survival times (50% survival time: 11 days), earlier and higher pyrexia and earlier onset of viraemia compared to ML pigs (50% survival time: 18 days). In the context of village-based pig production, the longer time from infection to death in native ML pigs means that incubating or early sick pigs are likely to be sold once an outbreak of CSF is recognized in a village. This increased longevity probably contributes to the maintenance and spread of disease in a population where generally the contact rate is low.

Newton PN, Phongmany S, Rolain JM, Phetsouvanh R, Blacksell S, Soukkhaserm V, Rasachack B, Phiasakha K, Soukkhaserm S, Frichithavong K et al. 2005. Rickettsial infections are common causes of fever amongst adults in the Lao PDR AMERICAN JOURNAL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AND HYGIENE, 73 (6), pp. 223-223.

Blacksell SD, Khounsy S, Boyle DB, Gleeson LJ, Westbury HA, Mackenzie JS. 2005. Genetic typing of classical swine fever viruses from Lao PDR by analysis of the 5' non-coding region. Virus Genes, 31 (3), pp. 349-355. | Show Abstract | Read more

The 5' non-coding region (5'-NCR) of 27 classical swine fever virus (CSFV) isolates from Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) during 1997 and 1999 were amplified by RT-PCR. A 150-bp region of the 5'-NCR amplicons was analysed and compared with reference CSFV of European and Asian origin and a phylogenetic dendrogram constructed. Following analysis, all viruses were determined to belong to genogroup 2. Viruses from Lao PDR grouped on a geographical basis with the majority of northern/central isolates falling into subgroup 2.1 and southern/central isolates falling into subgroup 2.2. These results concur with previous studies of CSF viruses from Lao PDR, although this study recognized the first occurrence of subgroup 2.1 in southern Lao PDR.

Phongmany S, Phetsouvanh R, Sisouphone S, Darasavath C, Vongphachane P, Rattanavong O, Mayxay M, Ramsay AC, Blacksell SD, Thammavong C et al. 2005. A randomized comparison of oral chloramphenicol versus ofloxacin in the treatment of uncomplicated typhoid fever in Laos. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg, 99 (6), pp. 451-458. | Show Abstract | Read more

We conducted a randomized open trial of oral chloramphenicol (50mg/kg/day in four divided doses for 14 days) versus ofloxacin (15 mg/kg/day in two divided doses for 3 days) in 50 adults with culture-confirmed uncomplicated typhoid fever in Vientiane, Laos. Patients had been ill for a median (range) of 8 (2-30) days. All Salmonella enterica serotype typhi isolates were nalidixic acid-sensitive, four (8%) were chloramphenicol-resistant and three (6%) were multidrug-resistant. Median (range) fever clearance times were 90 (24-224) hours in the chloramphenicol group and 54 (6-93) hours in the ofloxacin group (P<0.001). One patient in the chloramphenicol group developed an ileal perforation. Three days ofloxacin was more effective than 14 days chloramphenicol for the in-patient treatment of typhoid fever, irrespective of antibiotic susceptibility, and was of similar cost.

Blacksell SD, Khounsy S, Boyle DB, Greiser-Wilke I, Gleeson LJ, Westbury HA, Mackenzie JS. 2004. Phylogenetic analysis of the E2 gene of classical swine fever viruses from Lao PDR. Virus Res, 104 (1), pp. 87-92. | Show Abstract | Read more

The E2 genes of 21 classical swine fever viruses (CSFV) were genetically characterized and compared with reference CSF viruses. The viruses originated from CSF outbreaks that occurred in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) during 1997 though to 1999. All viruses characterized belonged to genogroup 2 and were members of subgroups 2.1 and 2.2. Results demonstrated a geographic delineation between subgroups 2.1 that was only found in the North-Central region, and subgroup 2.2 that was mostly found in the South-Central regions of Lao PDR. Although it was not possible to determine the origin of these viruses, it is probable that they may have been introduced to Lao PDR following cross-border trade. Alternatively, they have evolved independently of other viruses in the region.

Blacksell SD, Khounsy S, Westbury HA. 2004. The effect of sample degradation and RNA stabilization on classical swine fever virus RT-PCR and ELISA methods. J Virol Methods, 118 (1), pp. 33-37. | Show Abstract | Read more

Classical swine fever (CSF), also known as hog cholera, is a highly contagious viral infection of swine caused by a member of the genus pestivirus of the family, Flaviviridae. The need for accurate laboratory diagnosis of CSF is particularly important as it is more reliable than clinical diagnosis. CSF is endemic in many tropical countries where the climate is characterized by high ambient temperature and humidity. This study details the effect of sample quality on CSF antigen-capture ELISA (AC-ELISA) and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) methods. RT-PCR assessment of AC-ELISA-positive spleen samples stored in a conventional glycerol/saline buffer demonstrated that the RT-PCR was detrimentally affected by poor sample quality. To provide a more accurate representation of this effect, a 14 days study was performed to determine the effect of tropical ambient conditions on CSF virus-positive spleen samples stored in two transport media; glycerol/saline and a proprietary RNA preservation solution (RNAlater). A protective effect was demonstrated in both assays with RNAlater as samples were positive in both assays until day 14 post-exposure. Samples stored in glycerol/saline were negative at RT-PCR at day 3 post-exposure although AC-ELISA was still positive at day 14 post-exposure.

Perry BD, Gleeson LJ, Khounsey S, Bounma P, Blacksell SD. 2002. The dynamics and impact of foot and mouth disease in smallholder farming systems in South-East Asia: a case study in Laos. Rev Sci Tech, 21 (3), pp. 663-673. | Show Abstract | Read more

There is a general lack of data on the different patterns of dynamics and impact of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in South-East Asia and the impact the disease has on different sectors, in particular the smallholder sector in which livestock play such an important role. A pilot study was conducted of a recent outbreak of FMD that swept across the southern part of Laos during the second half of 1999. The main objectives of the study were to investigate the possible routes of transmission of the disease and the impact of FMD on the predominantly smallholder rice/livestock production system of Savannakhet Province. The study was performed by group interviews of farmers in ten villages, located in five districts across the width of the Province, and of district and provincial veterinary officials. Results suggested that the infection had probably been introduced from the eastern border and had spread rapidly west, along a principal trading route of pigs, cattle and buffalo. In the process, many villages adjacent to this trading route became infected and the disease spread rapidly within infected villages. The disease had a significant impact on the agricultural system, but the impact would have been much greater had the epidemic occurred during the season of paddy field preparation. Mortality was observed in young buffalo, cattle and pigs, and long periods of morbidity were observed in buffalo, often requiring extended treatment. The sale of livestock for cash was severely restricted, creating additional repercussions on that sector. It was concluded that the most appropriate approach to FMD control would be to prevent infected animals from entering the principal trading routes for pigs, cattle and buffalo. This will require the involvement of all the stakeholders of the livestock industry, including traders and veterinary authorities. A further tactic to be considered would be to protect livestock systems adjacent to these trading routes by vaccination. An economic study of the market incentives of both traders and smallholders is recommended and this approach is advocated in other parts of South-East Asia where livestock trading routes present the major risk of FMD outbreaks.

Hooper PT, Lunt RA, Gould AR, Hyatt AD, Russell GM, Kattenbelt JA, Blacksell SD, Reddacliff LA, Kirkland PD, Davis RJ et al. 1999. Epidemic of blindness in kangaroos - evidence of a viral aetiology. Aust Vet J, 77 (8), pp. 529-536. | Show Abstract | Read more

Objective To determine the cause of an epidemic of blindness in kangaroos. Design and procedures Laboratory examinations were made of eyes and brains of a large number of kangaroos using serological, virological, histopathological, electron microscopical, immunohistochemical methods, and PCR with cDNA sequencing. In addition, potential insect viral vectors identified during the disease outbreak were examined for specific viral genomic sequences. Sample population For histopathological analysis, 55 apparently blind and 18 apparently normal wild kangaroos and wallabies were obtained from New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia. A total of 437 wild kangaroos and wallabies (including 23 animals with apparent blindness) were examined serologically. Results Orbiviruses of the Wallal and Warrego serogroups were isolated from kangaroos affected with blindness in a major epidemic in south-eastern Australia in 1994 and 1995 and extending to Western Australia in 1995/96. Histopathological examinations showed severe degeneration and inflammation in the eyes, and mild inflammation in the brains. In affected retinas, Wallal virus antigen was detected by immunohistochemical analysis and orbiviruses were seen in electron microscopy. There was serological variation in the newly isolated Wallal virus from archival Wallal virus that had been isolated in northern Australia. There were also variations of up to 20% in genotype sequence from the reference archival virus. Polymerase chain reactions showed that Wallal virus was present during the epidemic in three species of midges, Culicoides austropalpalis, C dycei and C marksi. Wallal virus nucleic acid was also detected by PCR in a paraffin-embedded retina taken from a blind kangaroo in 1975. Conclusion Wallal virus and perhaps also Warrego virus are the cause of the outbreak of blindness in kangaroos. Other viruses may also be involved, but the evidence in this paper indicates a variant of Wallal virus, an orbivirus transmitted by midges, has the strongest aetiological association, and immunohistochemical analysis implicates it as the most damaging factor in the affected eyes.

Hooper PT, Lunt RA, Gould AR, Hyatt AD, Russell GM, Kattenbelt JA, Blacksell SD, Reddacliff LA, Kirkland PD, Davis RJ et al. 1999. Epidemic of blindness in kangaroos--evidence of a viral aetiology. Aust Vet J, 77 (8), pp. 529-536. | Show Abstract | Read more

OBJECTIVE: To determine the cause of an epidemic of blindness in kangaroos. DESIGN AND PROCEDURES: Laboratory examinations were made of eyes and brains of a large number of kangaroos using serological, virological, histopathological, electron microscopical, immunohistochemical methods, and PCR with cDNA sequencing. In addition, potential insect viral vectors identified during the disease outbreak were examined for specific viral genomic sequences. SAMPLE POPULATION: For histopathological analysis, 55 apparently blind and 18 apparently normal wild kangaroos and wallabies were obtained from New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia. A total of 437 wild kangaroos and wallabies (including 23 animals with apparent blindness) were examined serologically. RESULTS: Orbiviruses of the Wallal and Warrego serogroups were isolated from kangaroos affected with blindness in a major epidemic in south-eastern Australia in 1994 and 1995 and extending to Western Australia in 1995/96. Histopathological examinations showed severe degeneration and inflammation in the eyes, and mild inflammation in the brains. In affected retinas, Wallal virus antigen was detected by immunohistochemical analysis and orbiviruses were seen in electron microscopy. There was serological variation in the newly isolated Wallal virus from archival Wallal virus that had been isolated in northern Australia. There were also variations of up to 20% in genotype sequence from the reference archival virus. Polymerase chain reactions showed that Wallal virus was present during the epidemic in three species of midges, Culicoides austropalpalis, C dycei and C marksi. Wallal virus nucleic acid was also detected by PCR in a paraffin-embedded retina taken from a blind kangaroo in 1975. CONCLUSION: Wallal virus and perhaps also Warrego virus are the cause of the outbreak of blindness in kangaroos. Other viruses may also be involved, but the evidence in this paper indicates a variant of Wallal virus, an orbivirus transmitted by midges, has the strongest aetiological association, and immunohistochemical analysis implicates it as the most damaging factor in the affected eyes.

Gould AR, Hyatt AD, Lunt R, Kattenbelt JA, Hengstberger S, Blacksell SD. 1998. Characterisation of a novel lyssavirus isolated from Pteropid bats in Australia. Virus Res, 54 (2), pp. 165-187. | Show Abstract | Read more

A novel lyssavirus isolated from Pteropid bats in Australia (Australian Bat Lyssavirus, ABLV) has been characterised using gene sequence analyses, electron microscopy and a panel of monoclonal antibodies. Electron microscopic examination of Pteropid bat and mouse brain material as well as virus isolated from tissue culture medium, showed the presence of bullet-shaped rhabdovirus particles and structures characteristic of lyssavirus. Analysis using nucleocapsid (N) specific monoclonal antibodies, showed a strong relationship between this new lyssavirus and serotype 1 rabies. The nucleotide sequence of the prototype strain of ABLV was determined from the initiator methionine codon for the nucleocapsid protein (N protein) to the amino terminus of the polymerase gene (L protein), a distance of 5344 nucleotides. Comparisons of the deduced N, phosphoprotein (P), matrix protein (M), and glycoprotein (G) proteins showed that ABLV was more closely related to serotype 1 classic rabies viruses than to other members of the Lyssavirus genus. The percent relatedness of the ABLV proteins when compared to the cognate proteins of PV (Pasteur vaccine strain) rabies was 92, 75, 87 and 75% for the N, P, M and G proteins, respectively. Phylogenetic studies of N protein sequences showed clearly that ABLV is an unrecognised member of the Lyssavirus genus and represents a new genotype, genotype 7.

Weir RP, Harmsen MB, Hunt NT, Blacksell SD, Lunt RA, Pritchard LI, Newberry KM, Hyatt AD, Gould AR, Melville LF. 1997. EHDV-1, a new Australian serotype of epizootic haemorrhagic disease virus isolated from sentinel cattle in the Northern Territory. Vet Microbiol, 58 (2-4), pp. 135-143. | Show Abstract | Read more

In 1992, a virus (DPP2209) isolated from sentinel cattle located at Coastal Plains Research Station, latitude 12 degrees 39'S, longitude 131 degrees 20'E, approximately 60 km east of Darwin, Northern Territory. This virus was identified as a serotype of epizootic haemorrhagic disease (EHD) of deer virus previously undescribed in Australia. An additional 17 isolation of this virus were made from eight animals during the period February to May. Electron microscopic studies showed the presence of orbivirus-like structures. Serogrouping ELISA, indirect immunofluorescence assay and the serogrouping plaque reduction neutralisation test indicated the virus was a member of the epizootic haemorrhagic disease serogroup. Serotype specific plaque reduction neutralisation tests, indicated the virus was a member of the epizootic haemorrhagic disease serogroup not previously isolated in Australia. Analysis of the VP3 gene confirmed this observation. Cross neutralisation testing of the isolate with known epizootic haemorrhagic disease serotype viruses including endemic Australian and exotic strains identified isolate DPP2209 as epizootic haemorrhagic disease virus serotype 1.

Blacksell SD, Lunt RA, White JR. 1997. Rapid identification of Australian bunyavirus isolates belonging to the Simbu serogroup using indirect ELISA formats. J Virol Methods, 66 (1), pp. 123-133. | Show Abstract | Read more

The Bunyavirus genus, belonging to the Bunyaviridae family, is comprised of a large group of antigenically and geographically disparate arthropod-borne viruses of medical and veterinary significance. In Australia, viruses belonging to the Simbu serogroup of the Bunyavirus genus, Akabane, Tinaroo, Peaton, Aino, Douglas, Thimiri and Facey's Paddock have been isolated. In this communication we describe two indirect ELISAs, referred to as the Simbu serogroup ELISA (SG-ELISA), and the Simbu typing ELISA (ST-ELISA), for the identification of these Simbu serogroup viruses. Infected cell lysate antigens prepared from Simbu serogroup virus isolates were assessed in the SG-ELISA for reactivity with a mouse monoclonal antibody (4H9/B11/F1). The monoclonal antibody reacted strongly with all Australian members of Simbu serogroup reference viruses and is proposed for use as a serogrouping reagent for Simbu viruses. Furthermore, the ST-ELISA enabled specific identification of viruses from within this group by recognition of characteristic reaction patterns between infected cell lysate antigens and a panel of polyclonal antisera raised to Simbu serogroup viruses.

Stanislawek WL, Lunt RA, Blacksell SD, Newberry KM, Hooper PT, White JR. 1996. Detection by ELISA of bluetongue antigen directly in the blood of experimentally infected sheep. Vet Microbiol, 52 (1-2), pp. 1-12. | Show Abstract | Read more

An antigen-capture ELISA (Ag-ELISA) was developed to detect bluetongue virus (BTV) antigen directly from blood samples. Four blood preparations [whole blood, buffy coat, washed red blood cells (RBC) and plasma] taken pre-inoculation and on days 6 to 9 post-inoculation (PI) were used in the ELISA to study antigenaemia in forty sheep, each experimentally infected with one of 20 South African BTV serotypes. Seventeen of the 20 serotypes were detected and 27 of the 40 sheep were at some stage Ag-ELISA positive. Over the period of sampling, Ag-ELISA positive results were most frequently returned from whole blood taken on days 6 and 7 PI. However in some instances the quantity and/or duration of BTV antigenaemia was greater in buffy coat and washed RBC preparations. In a selection of samples examined, positive Ag-ELISA results were generally obtained when samples had an infectious virus titre in eggs of > 10(3.2) egg lethal doses (ELD50/ml). The appearance and duration of detectable antigenaemia was compared with the development of clinical signs and antibody responses of infected sheep. On days 6 and 7 PI the presence of fever (> 40 degrees C) was indicative to the likelihood of detectable antigenaemia. After day 5 PI antigenaemia declined and clinical signs of swollen face and inflamed feet appeared together with the first detectable antibody response. The Ag-ELISA, when used in conjunction with clinical observations and serologic data, should be useful as a rapid diagnostic procedure for bluetongue disease.

Blacksell SD, Cameron AR, Chamnanpood C, Chamnanpood P, Tatong D, Monpolsiri M, Westbury HA. 1996. Implementation of internal laboratory quality control procedures for the monitoring of ELISA performance at a regional veterinary laboratory. Vet Microbiol, 51 (1-2), pp. 1-9. | Show Abstract | Read more

Quality control (QC) procedures for antigen detection enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) for hog cholera (HC) virus, foot and mouth disease (FMD) virus, and an antibody detection ELISA for FMD virus were established at a regional veterinary laboratory in northern Thailand. A recently developed computer software package, QCEL, was used to facilitate management and analysis of QC data. The program was used to assess test performance by producing Shewhart-CUSUM control charts which monitored control data for unacceptable fluctuations or trends. QCEL-generated control charts and analyses are presented and discussed. The use of a simple integrated computerised system for storage and analysis of QC control data provided the laboratory with the opportunity to achieve increased confidence in the results of tests performed.

Blacksell SD, Lunt RA. 1996. A simplified fluorescence inhibition test for the serotype determination of Australian bluetongue viruses. Aust Vet J, 73 (1), pp. 33-34. | Read more

Blacksell SD, Lunt RA, Chamnanpood C, Linchongsubongkoch W, Nakarungkul N, Gleeson LJ, Megkamol C. 1994. Establishment of a typing enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for foot and mouth disease antigen, using reagents against viruses endemic in Thailand. Rev Sci Tech, 13 (3), pp. 701-709. | Show Abstract | Read more

Antisera were produced at a central laboratory in Thailand against the endemic serotypes (O, A and Asia 1) of foot and mouth disease (FMD) virus. At a regional veterinary laboratory, these antisera were used in an indirect sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for the detection and serotyping of FMD virus (FMDV) antigen. ELISA readings of < 0.10 optical density (OD) units were considered negative. This was verified using fifty tissue samples which were known to be negative for FMDV. The highest mean sample value for three different dilutions was 0.02 OD units. Of a total of 93 samples submitted for antigen typing, 80 (86%) tested positive by ELISA and 13 (14%) were negative. No FMDV was detected in ELISA-negative samples following attempted tissue-culture virus isolation.

Blacksell SD, Gleeson LJ, Lunt RA, Chamnanpood C. 1994. Use of combined Shewhart-CUSUM control charts in internal quality control of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays for the typing of foot and mouth disease virus antigen. Rev Sci Tech, 13 (3), pp. 687-699. | Show Abstract | Read more

An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for the typing of foot and mouth disease virus (FMDV) antigen was employed for the routine laboratory diagnosis of FMD at a regional veterinary laboratory in northern Thailand. An objective procedure was developed to monitor the test performance of the ELISA, using absolute test control limits in a Shewhart-CUSUM (cumulative sum) control chart method. The procedure detected significant data trends and 'beyond control limit' situations for each antigen typing system (types O, A and Asia 1), using an assay variable (gamma i). Retrospective analysis using Shewhart-CUSUM control charts of data from 42 ELISAs demonstrated that control limits were exceeded in two assays for FMDV type A. The Shewhart-CUSUM control chart is a simple and reliable internal quality control method for the detection of significant random and systematic variation in assays.

Blacksell SD, Lunt RA, White JR. 1994. A rapid indirect ELISA for the serogrouping of Australian orbiviruses. J Virol Methods, 49 (1), pp. 67-78. | Show Abstract | Read more

This communication describes the development and evaluation of a simple and rapid method for the classification of Australian orbiviruses into one of seven established serogroups (i.e. bluetongue, epizootic haemorrhagic disease of deer, Palyam, Eubenangee, Corriparta, Wallal, Warrego) or an 'ungrouped' category. The Australian orbivirus serogrouping ELISA (SG-ELISA) utilised a sodium deoxycholate-treated cell lysate preparation from infected BHK cells which was subsequently probed in an indirect ELISA format with polyclonal antibodies representative of each serogroup. Bound immunoglobulin was detected by the use of a recombinant streptococcal protein G-HRPO conjugate and subsequent reaction with the chromogenic substrate. All reference orbiviruses tested in the SG-ELISA were identified and were in agreement with the serogroups originally designated. Minimal inter-serogroup cross-reactions were observed. One-way cross-reactions were observed between Warrego and Mitchell River viruses.

Lunt RA, Blacksell SD, Newberry KM. 1994. The use of an indirect ELISA with protein G-peroxidase conjugate and a blocking ELISA to demonstrate recent bluetongue infection in sheep. J Virol Methods, 48 (1), pp. 53-63. | Show Abstract | Read more

The humoral immune response of sheep infected with bluetongue virus serotypes 3, 9 and 16 was monitored by plaque inhibition (PI), blocking ELISA (BELISA) and indirect ELISA over a period of 63 days post-infection. Results indicated that testing of a single plasma or serum sample by both a BELISA and an indirect ELISA using a recombinant streptococcal protein G (PrG) peroxidase conjugate enabled an assessment of the proximity of a recent infection based on the failure of PrG to bind ovine IgM class antibodies. When BELISA and indirect ELISA results were expressed as a ratio, values indicative of recent infection (> or = 5) were observed for an average duration of 16.5 days (range 8 to 23 days) following the initial detection of antibody by BELISA. This approach has potential to improve diagnosis of a wide range of virus infections by providing an indicator for the relationship of serological status with a recent infection. However, where reinfection may occur, as with bluetongue virus, alternative methods may be required for definitive diagnosis.

Blacksell SD, Lunt RA, Newberry KM. 1994. Identification of epizootic haemorrhagic disease of deer virus serotypes using a fluorescence inhibition test. J Virol Methods, 46 (2), pp. 251-254. | Show Abstract | Read more

A fluorescence inhibition test (FIT) is described for serotyping rapidly isolates of epizootic haemorrhagic disease of deer virus (EHDV). The test used a serogroup-reactive monoclonal antibody in a immunofluorescence procedure to detect virus which resisted neutralisation by antisera to any of the eight known EHDV serotypes. The EHDV FIT provided an accurate serotype identification procedure for all eight reference serotypes and, in comparison with the plaque inhibition assay, abbreviated the serotyping process by three to four days.

Blacksell SD, Lunt RA. 1993. Serotype identification of Australian bluetongue viruses using a rapid fluorescence inhibition test. J Virol Methods, 44 (2-3), pp. 241-250. | Show Abstract | Read more

Rapid serotyping of bluetongue virus (BTV) isolates is required to facilitate the choice of an appropriate serotype-specific vaccine in a disease situation or to improve surveillance of BTV serotype prevalence. This communication describes the development and validation of a bluetongue virus fluorescent inhibition test (BTV FIT) as a rapid method to serotype Australian BTV isolates. The BTV FIT uses virus neutralisation principles similar to those used in the rabies rapid fluorescent focus inhibition test. The BTV FIT has the ability to provide an accurate serotype identification within 24 h thereby abbreviating the serotyping process by 3-4 days relative to conventional virus neutralisation assays and making the BTV FIT comparable time-wise with the polymerase chain reaction technique. The development of the BTV FIT is described using BTV reference viruses which have been isolated in Australia, and validation of the assay by assessment of five Australian BTV isolates of unknown serotype by comparison with the plaque inhibition method. The use of the BTV FIT readily facilitated rapid and accurate serotype identification of Australian BTV reference viruses and five unknown BTV isolates with results indicating full agreement with the plaque inhibition method.

Blacksell SD, Gleeson LJ, Chamnanpood C, Nakarungkul N, Megkamol C. 1992. A comparison of type O foot and mouth disease virus field isolates from northern Thailand. Rev Sci Tech, 11 (3), pp. 761-767. | Show Abstract | Read more

A survey of type O foot and mouth disease (FMD) virus isolates from northern Thailand was undertaken to determine the relationship between field viruses and the vaccine in use, and to gauge the range of antigenic variation among field viruses. Isolates were collected from the two most recent epizootics, 1986-1987 and 1989-1990, and assessed using a two-dimensional neutralisation test to determine their relationship to FMD type O1 Bangkok 1960 (O BKK/60) reference (vaccine challenge) virus. The critical r value for the survey was 0.259 and all isolates tested were found to have an r value considerably greater than this (range 0.66 to 0.80). The results showed close antigenic relationships between the isolates and the reference virus, and indicated a relatively small range of antigenic variation between the isolates.

White JR, Blacksell SD, Lunt RA, Gard GP. 1991. A monoclonal antibody blocking ELISA detects antibodies specific for epizootic haemorrhagic disease virus. Vet Microbiol, 29 (3-4), pp. 237-250. | Show Abstract | Read more

The isolation of a monoclonal antibody (1G9/C9) with specificity for the epizootic haemorrhagic disease (EHD) serogroup has enabled the development of a highly sensitive and specific blocking ELISA (B-ELISA) for the detection of serum antibodies to EHD viruses. The assay was sensitive to blocking antibodies present in hyperimmune reference antisera to all six EHD serotypes tested but was unaffected by reference antisera to 19 South African and eight Australian serotypes of the related orbivirus bluetongue virus (BTV). The sensitivity of the EHD B-ELISA exceeded that of an indirect ELISA (I-ELISA) for EHD-specific antibody detection. Serum antibody titres to BTV and EHD in experimental and field sera, including a sentinel herd from which virus isolations were made, were examined in both the BTV and EHD B-ELISA tests. These results showed the B-ELISA was only sensitive to antibodies specific for the homologous serogroup in each case, even where sequential and mixed infections with each virus type occurred.

Gould AR, Hyatt AD, Eaton BT, White JR, Hooper PT, Blacksell SD, Le Blanc Smith PM. 1989. Current techniques in rapid bluetongue virus diagnosis. Aust Vet J, 66 (12), pp. 450-454. | Read more

Lunt RA, White JR, Blacksell SD. 1988. Evaluation of a monoclonal antibody blocking ELISA for the detection of group-specific antibodies to bluetongue virus in experimental and field sera. J Gen Virol, 69 ( Pt 11) (11), pp. 2729-2740. | Show Abstract | Read more

In order to overcome serological cross-reactions among orbivirus serogroups, which can hinder the accurate diagnosis of bluetongue virus (BTV) infection of livestock, a blocking ELISA (B-ELISA) incorporating a monoclonal antibody (20E9B7G2) with specificity for the BTV serogroup was developed. Experimental antisera raised to South African BTV serotypes 1 to 19 were tested in the B-ELISA and all blocked the binding of 20E9B7G2 to BTV antigen. The sensitivity and specificity of the assay was evaluated with a range of experimental and field sera and compared to a sensitive indirect ELISA (I-ELISA) for the detection of BTV-specific antibodies. The specificity of the B-ELISA was absolute for antibodies to BTV, showing no cross-reaction with experimental antisera to serotypes of the closely related orbivirus causing epizootic haemorrhagic disease of deer. The sensitivity of the B-ELISA exceeded that of the I-ELISA. In particular, the B-ELISA detected a BTV-specific antibody response much earlier after infection that the I-ELISA, while still exhibiting full sensitivity to BTV antibody titres several months after infection.

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Lunt RA, White JR, Blacksell SD. 1988. Evaluation of a monoclonal antibody blocking ELISA for the detection of group-specific antibodies to bluetongue virus in experimental and field sera. Journal of General Virology, 69 | Show Abstract

In order to overcome serological cross-reactions among orbivirus serogroups, which can hinder the accurate diagnosis of bluetongue virus (BTV) infection of livestock, a blocking ELISA (B-ELISA) incorporating a monoclonal antibody (20E9B7G2) with specificity for the BTV serogroup was developed. Experimental antisera raised to South African BTV serotypes 1 to 19 were tested in the B-ELISA and all blocked the binding of 20E9B7G2 to BTV antigen. The sensitivity and specificity of the assay was evaluated with a range of experimental and field sera and compared to a sensitive indirect ELISA (I-ELISA) for the detection of BTV-specific antibodies. The specificity of the B-ELISA was absolute for antibodies to BTV, showing no cross-reaction with experimental antisera to serotypes of the closely related orbivirus causing epizootic haemorrhagic disease of deer. The sensitivity of the B-ELISA exceeded that of the I-ELISA. In particular, the B-ELISA detected a BTV-specific antibody response much earlier after infection that the I-ELISA, while still exhibiting full sensitivity to BTV antibody titres several months after infection.

Blacksell SD, Luksameetanasan R, Kalambaheti T, Aukkanit N, Paris DH, McGready R, Nosten F, Peacock SJ, Day NPJ. 2008. Genetic typing of the 56-kDa type-specific antigen gene of contemporary Orientia tsutsugamushi isolates causing human scrub typhus at two sites in north-eastern and western Thailand. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol, 52 (3), pp. 335-342. | Show Abstract | Read more

Orientia tsutsugamushi is the causative agent of scrub typhus, a major cause of febrile illness in the rural areas of Southeast Asia. Twenty-three strains of O. tsutsugamushi were isolated from patients with scrub typhus in north-east (Udorn Thani province) and western Thailand (Tak province) between 2003 and 2005. The isolates were characterized by sequencing the entire ORF of the 56-kDa-type-specific antigen gene, followed by phylogenetic analysis. The majority (15/23) of isolates clustered with the Karp-type strain, six with a Gilliam-type strain and one each with the TA716- and TA763-type strains. Overall, there was considerable diversity in sequence, comparable to that seen in strains from across the rest of the scrub typhus-endemic world. There was no significant difference in the distributions of strains between the two provinces (P=0.08, Fisher's exact) nor a temporal change in distribution with year of isolation (P=0.80, Fisher's exact). Within this diversity there were also examples of isolates with identical 56-kDa genotypes that were cultured from patients from the same geographical areas.

Blacksell SD, Mammen MP, Thongpaseuth S, Gibbons RV, Jarman RG, Jenjaroen K, Nisalak A, Phetsouvanh R, Newton PN, Day NPJ. 2008. Evaluation of the Panbio dengue virus nonstructural 1 antigen detection and immunoglobulin M antibody enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays for the diagnosis of acute dengue infections in Laos. Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis, 60 (1), pp. 43-49. | Show Abstract | Read more

We evaluated 2 commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) for the diagnosis of dengue infection; one a serologic test for immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies, the other based on detection of dengue virus nonstructural 1 (NS1) antigen. Using gold standard reference serology on paired sera, 41% (38/92 patients) were dengue confirmed, with 4 (11%) acute primary and 33 (87%) acute secondary infections (1 was of indeterminate status). Sensitivity of the NS1-ELISA was 63% (95% confidence interval [CI], 53-73) on admission samples but was much less sensitive (5%; 95% CI, 1-10) on convalescent samples. The IgM capture ELISA had a lower but statistically equivalent sensitivity compared with the NS1-ELISA for admission samples (45%; 95% CI, 35-55) but was more sensitive on convalescent samples (58%; 95% CI, 48-68). The results of the NS1 and IgM capture ELISAs were combined using a logical OR operator, increasing the sensitivity for admission samples (79%; 95% CI, 71-87), convalescent samples (63%; 95% CI, 53-73), and all samples (71%; 95% CI, 65-78).

Blacksell SD, Bell D, Kelley J, Mammen MP, Gibbons RV, Jarman RG, Vaughn DW, Jenjaroen K, Nisalak A, Thongpaseuth S et al. 2007. Prospective study to determine accuracy of rapid serological assays for diagnosis of acute dengue virus infection in Laos. Clin Vaccine Immunol, 14 (11), pp. 1458-1464. | Show Abstract | Read more

There is an urgent need for accurate and simple dengue virus infection diagnostic assays in limited-resource settings of dengue endemicity, to assist patient management. Using a panel of reference samples (S. D. Blacksell, P. N. Newton, D. Bell, J. Kelley, M. P. Mammen, D. W. Vaughn, V. Wuthiekanun, A. Sungkakum, A. Nisalak, and N. P. Day, Clin. Infect. Dis. 42:1127-1134, 2006), we recently evaluated eihgt commercially available immunochromatographic rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) designed to detect dengue virus-specific immunoglobulin M (IgM) and/or IgG. We found that 6/8 RDTs had sensitivities of less than 50% (range, 6 to 65%), but specificities were generally high. Here, in conjuction with dengue virus serotyping by reverse transcriptase PCR and in the limited-resource setting of Laos, where dengue virus is endemic, we evaluated the same eight RDTs against a previously validated dengue IgM/IgG enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for diagnosis of acute dengue virus infection. Paired serum samples were collected from 87 patients, of whom 38 had confirmed dengue virus infections (4 had primary infections, 33 had secondary infections, and 1 had an infection of indeterminate status). RDT sensitivity was low, with 7/8 RDTs having admission sample sensitivities of less than 20% (range, 4 to 26%). The majority (6/8) of the RDTs, demonstrated high specificity (>95%). Kappa statistic values ranged from 6 to 54% for the RDTs, demonstrating poor to moderate variation between three operators. No RDT adequately differentiated between primary and secondary dengue virus infections. The findings of this study suggest that currently available RDTs based on the detection of IgM antibodies for the diagnosis of acute dengue virus infections are unlikely to be useful for patient management.

Blacksell SD, Bryant NJ, Paris DH, Doust JA, Sakoda Y, Day NPJ. 2007. Scrub typhus serologic testing with the indirect immunofluorescence method as a diagnostic gold standard: a lack of consensus leads to a lot of confusion. Clin Infect Dis, 44 (3), pp. 391-401. | Show Abstract | Read more

A review was performed to determine the evidence base for scrub typhus indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA) methodologies and the criteria for positive results. This review included a total of 109 publications, which comprised 123 eligible studies for analysis (14 publications included 2 substudies). There was considerable underreporting of the IFA methodology and seropositivity criteria used, with most studies using a defined cutoff titer rather than an increase in the titer in paired samples. The choice of positivity cutoff titer varied by country and purpose of the IFA test. This variation limits the comparability of seroprevalence rates between studies and, more seriously, raises questions about the appropriateness of the cutoffs for positive IFA results chosen for diagnosis of acute scrub typhus infection. We suggest that the diagnosis of scrub typhus using IFA should be based on a > or =4-fold increase in the titer in paired serum samples and should only be based on a single sample titer when there is an adequate local evidence base.

Phetsouvanh R, Phongmany S, Soukaloun D, Rasachak B, Soukhaseum V, Soukhaseum S, Frichithavong K, Khounnorath S, Pengdee B, Phiasakha K et al. 2006. Causes of community-acquired bacteremia and patterns of antimicrobial resistance in Vientiane, Laos. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 75 (5), pp. 978-985. | Show Abstract

There is no published information on the causes of bacteremia in the Lao PDR (Laos). Between 2000 and 2004, 4512 blood culture pairs were taken from patients admitted to Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, Laos, with suspected community-acquired bacteremia; 483 (10.7%) cultures grew a clinically significant community-acquired organism, most commonly Salmonella enterica serovar typhi (50.9%), Staphylococcus aureus (19.0%), and Escherichia coli (12.4%). S. aureus bacteremia was common among infants (69.2%), while children 1-5 years had a high frequency of typhoid (44%). Multi-drug-resistant S. Typhi was rare (6%). On multiple logistic regression analysis, typhoid was associated with younger age, longer illness, diarrhea, higher admission temperature, and lower peripheral white blood cell count than non-typhoidal bacteremia. Empirical parenteral ampicillin and gentamicin would have some activity against approximately 88% of clinically significant isolates at a cost of US $1.4/day, an important exception being B. pseudomallei. Bacteremic infants in this setting require an anti-staphylococcal antibiotic.

Blacksell SD, Smythe L, Phetsouvanh R, Dohnt M, Hartskeerl R, Symonds M, Slack A, Vongsouvath M, Davong V, Lattana O et al. 2006. Limited diagnostic capacities of two commercial assays for the detection of Leptospira immunoglobulin M antibodies in Laos. Clin Vaccine Immunol, 13 (10), pp. 1166-1169. | Show Abstract | Read more

The diagnostic utility of immunochromatographic (Leptotek) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA; Panbio) tests for the detection of Leptospira immunoglobulin M antibodies was assessed in febrile adults admitted in Vientiane, Laos. Both tests demonstrated poor diagnostic accuracy using admission serum (Leptotek sensitivity of 47.3% and specificity of 75.5%: ELISA sensitivity of 60.9% and specificity of 65.6%) compared to the Leptospira "gold standard" microscopic agglutination test.

Blacksell SD, Newton PN, Bell D, Kelley J, Mammen MP, Vaughn DW, Wuthiekanun V, Sungkakum A, Nisalak A, Day NPJ. 2006. The comparative accuracy of 8 commercial rapid immunochromatographic assays for the diagnosis of acute dengue virus infection. Clin Infect Dis, 42 (8), pp. 1127-1134. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The serological diagnosis of acute dengue virus infection relies on the detection of dengue-specific immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies. Immunochromatographic tests are rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) that can be performed at the bedside, but they have not been fully validated for diagnosis of dengue infection. METHODS: More than 20 RDTs for diagnosis of acute dengue infection are commercially available. Of these, 8 were selected for evaluation of performance by use of characterized dengue and nondengue serum specimens, and results were compared with those of a previously published dengue IgM/IgG enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in conjunction with dengue virus serotyping by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. RESULTS: Assay sensitivities were low, ranging from 6.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 4.0%-9.7%) to 65.3% (95% CI, 59.9%-70.5%), and specificities ranged from 69.1% (95% CI, 61.4%-76.0%) to 100% (95% CI, 97.8%-100%). Of the 8 tests, only 2 had sensitivities of >50%, the level considered to be clinically useful, and, of these, 1 had relatively low specificity (69.1%). Samples collected early in the infection were less likely to test positive than those collected later. A thermal stability study demonstrated a loss in performance of some RDTs when they were stored at a high ambient temperature for 3 months. CONCLUSIONS: Users of RDTs for dengue should be aware that many of these tests have a diagnostic accuracy that falls well below the manufacturers' claims. If an acute specimen yields a negative result, a convalescent serum sample should be tested to confirm the result. No RDT adequately differentiated primary and secondary dengue infections, and the tests should not be used for this purpose.

Phongmany S, Rolain J-M, Phetsouvanh R, Blacksell SD, Soukkhaseum V, Rasachack B, Phiasakha K, Soukkhaseum S, Frichithavong K, Chu V et al. 2006. Rickettsial infections and fever, Vientiane, Laos. Emerg Infect Dis, 12 (2), pp. 256-262. | Show Abstract | Read more

Rickettsial diseases have not been described previously from Laos, but in a prospective study, acute rickettsial infection was identified as the cause of fever in 115 (27%) of 427 adults with negative blood cultures admitted to Mahosot Hospital in Vientiane, Laos. The organisms identified by serologic analysis were Orientia tsutsugamushi (14.8%), Rickettsia typhi (9.6%), and spotted fever group rickettsia (2.6% [8 R. helvetica, 1 R. felis, 1 R. conorii subsp. indica, and 1 Rickettsia "AT1"]). Patients with murine typhus had a lower frequency of peripheral lymphadenopathy than those with scrub typhus (3% vs. 46%, p<0.001). Rickettsioses are an underrecognized cause of undifferentiated febrile illnesses among adults in Laos. This finding has implications for the local empiric treatment of fever.

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