Weil Felix Test: Principle, Procedure and limitation

Weil-Felix is a nonspecific agglutination test which detects anti-rickettsial antibodies in patient’s serum. Weil-Felix test is based on cross-reactions which occur between antibodies produced in acute rickettsial infections with antigens of OX (OX  19, OX 2, and OXK) strains of Proteus species.  Dilution of patient’s serum are tested against suspensions of the different Proteus strains.

Several rickettsiae, such as Rickettsia prowazekii, Rickettsia tsutsugamushi, and R. rickettsii, posses antigens that cross-react with antigens of OX strains of Proteus vulgaris.

Proteus OXK strain agglutinins are produced in scrub typhus and OX 2 and OX 19 agglutinins in other rickettsial diseases, see the table below

Organism Weil-Felix Reaction
OX 19 OX 2 OXK
R. prowazekii (Epidemic typhus) + + + +/-
R. typhi (Murine typhus) + + + +/-
R. tsutsugamushi (Scrub typhus) + + +
R. rickettsii (Rocky Mountain Spotted fever) +/ + + + +/ + + +

 

Limitation of Weil Felix test:

Both Sensitivity and specificity of weil-felix test is low, but its predictive value can be increased by testing both acute and convalescent phase samples and observing rise in antibody titre.

Weil-felix test has low sensitivity, i.e. its gives high percentage of false negative results. This is common in case of Scrub Typhus.

It also shows low specificity, i.e. false positive results are obtained in other diseases such as leptospirosis, and relapsing fever (diseases which require differentiating from rickettsial infections), in Proteus infections, brucellosis and acute febrile illness.

About tankeshwar 364 Articles
Hello, thank you for visiting my blog. I am Tankeshwar Acharya. Blogging is my passion, I am working as a Asst. Professor and Microbiologist at Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Patan Academy of Health Sciences, Nepal. If you want me to write about any posts that you found confusing/difficult, please mention in the comments below.

4 Comments

  1. Respected sir, my son age 22 monthsmonths. His Weil Felix test results as follows. OX K 1:160, OX2 1:160 & OX19 1:80. can you please explain wt it means, is their any sever problem. Please help me to know about this test.

    • Please consult with your Physician. He/She is the best person to talk about the test results.

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