Since 1984, it has been known that spotted fever group rickettsiosis exists in Japan. We isolated three strains of the causative rickettsiae, designated Katayama, Misaka, and Abe, from patients with the disease and studied the characteristics of the isolates. Nude mice and cyclophosphamide-treated mice died after infection with the isolates. However, infected normal mice recovered and acquired immunity. Infected adult male guinea pigs had fever, a scrotal reaction, and seroconversion. The isolates propagated well in tissue-cultured Vero cells. Analysis by the cross-immunofluorescence antibody method showed that these isolates were closely related serologically. To reveal their immunological properties in detail, we produced 21 anti-Katayama monoclonal antibodies. Seven of these antibodies reacted with all representative strains of spotted fever group rickettsiae used in this study, and five others reacted only with the homologous strain, revealing that the Katayama strain has a strain-specific antigen(s) different from those of other spotted fever group rickettsiae. Moreover, these strain-specific antibodies also reacted with the Misaka and Abe strains. These results demonstrate that the causative agent of spotted fever group rickettsiosis in Japan is a new serotype of spotted fever group rickettsiae
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