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Tularemia (cont.)

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What types of specialists treat tularemia?

Specialists who help diagnose and treat tularemia are infectious-disease specialists, critical-care specialists, and pulmonologists. Other specialists may be consulted depending upon where the organisms spread inside the body. (For example, a cardiologist may be consulted if pericarditis develops.)

How do health-care professionals diagnose tularemia?

The first step in diagnosing tularemia is to suspect the disease. Because tularemia is rare, physicians may not think to ask about a history of tick bite or an occupational exposure such as hunting. Tissues or blood may be sent for culture, which requires special media. It is critical to warn the laboratory that tularemia is suspected because the organism poses a threat to laboratory workers. More rapid diagnosis may be obtained through use a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, although this may be falsely negative in up to one-third of cases. Other rapid tests under study include special fluorescent stains, tests that detect parts of the bacteria in the urine, and experimental tests for bacterial RNA. Infected patients make antibodies against F. tularensis and these antibodies may be detected in the blood after the first week of illness. High titers of antibodies indicate a high likelihood of disease. However, antibodies may simply represent disease that happened in the remote past rather than an acute illness.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/7/2016


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