ABSTRACT: During February and March of 1998, 12 sudden deaths were reported among residents of a high-Andean community in Ecuador. All 12 fatalities were members of the same extended family and some had apparent exposure to sick guinea-pigs. Following an initial investigation by public health officials, an additional death was reported in a nearby community in April, also associated with exposure to sick guinea-pigs. Blood samples from humans, dogs, and a rodent were tested for antibody to the F1 antigen of Yersinia pestis by passive haemagglutination assay. Tissue from rodents was subjected to direct fluorescent antibody staining using fluorescein-labelled monoclonal antibody to Y. pestis F1 antigen. Formalin-fixed specimens from the 2 autopsies were evaluated using a 2-step alkaline phosphatase immunoassay with a monoclonal antibody to Y. pestis F1 antigen, and tissues that had not been embedded in paraffin were tested for the presence of DNA encoding the F1 structural antigen by polymerase chain reaction. Serological evaluation of close contacts of the fatalities revealed positive titres to F1 antigen of Y. pestis, the aetiological agent of plague, in 3 contacts from the first community and 1 from the second. Immunohistochemical staining of tissues collected from 2 of the fatalities provided evidence that both had pneumonic plague. Five of 14 dogs found in the communities were seropositive for plague antibody, providing evidence of a recent epizootic plague in the area.
Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene · 2.16 Impact Factor