Rickettsia – Serology

Specimen Collection and Handling

Specimen Requirements

Test Requested Required Requisition(s) Specimen Type Minimum Volume Collection Kit

Rickettsia serology, or Murine typhus, or M typhus, or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or RMSF

Whole blood or serum

5.0 ml whole blood or 1.0 ml serum

Vacutainer tubes (SST)

Submission and Collection Notes


Provide clinical symptoms, exposure, and onset date on the General Test Requisition Form if diagnosis is required.

Timing of Specimen Collection

An acute (collected early after the onset of symptoms) and a convalescent (collected 2-3 weeks later) may be required for laboratory diagnosis.


Haemolysed, icteric, lipemic or microbially contaminated sera or plasma are not recommended for testing.

Preparation Prior to Transport

Label the specimen container with the patient’s full name, date of collection and one other unique identifier such as the patient’s date of birth or Health Card Number. Failure to provide this information may result in rejection or testing delay.

Special Instructions

Centrifuge if using SST. Label specimens with at least two identifiers; place it in biohazard bag and seal. Specimens should be stored at 2-8°C following collection and shipped to PHOL on ice packs.

Requisitions and Kit Ordering

Test Frequency and Turnaround Time (TAT)

Rickettsia serology testing is performed once per week.

Turnaround time is up to 10 days from receipt by PHO laboratory.


Results are reported to the ordering physician or health care provider as indicated on the requisition.

Test Methods

Rickettsia serology assays are performed using Indirect Immunofluorescence Assay (IFA) for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Murine typhus IgG and IgM antibody. 

Antibody reactivity to the R.rickettsii antigen should be considered positive for the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever group, whereas antibody reactivity to the R.typhi antigen should be considered positive for Typhus Fever group.

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Updated 21 Dec 2018