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Concept: Scrub typhus

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Scrub typhus is caused by the obligate intracellular bacterium Orientia tsutsugamushi and is endemic to many countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including tropical Australia. We describe a recent large outbreak amongst military personnel in north Queensland. A total of 45 clinical cases were identified (36% of all potentially exposed individuals). This occurred despite existing military protocols stipulating the provision of doxycycline prophylaxis. Doxycycline resistance in O. tsutsugamushi has been described in South-East Asia, but not Australia. In one case, O. tsutsugamushi was cultured from eschar tissue and blood. Using quantitative real-time PCR to determine susceptibility to doxycycline for the outbreak strain, a minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of ≤0.04 μg/mL was found, indicating susceptibility to this agent. It seems most probable that failure to adhere to adequate prophylaxis over the duration of the military exercise accounted for the large number of cases encountered rather than doxycycline resistance.

Concepts: Molecular biology, Rickettsia, Military, Typhus, Asia-Pacific, Soldier, Scrub typhus, Orientia tsutsugamushi

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Scrub typhus is a severe mite-borne infection caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi, an obligately intracellular bacterium closely related to Rickettsia. The disease explains a substantial proportion of acute undifferentiated febrile cases that require hospitalization in rural areas of Asia, the North of Australia, and many islands of the Pacific Ocean. Delayed antibiotic treatment is common due to the lack of effective commercially available diagnostic tests and the lack of specificity of the early clinical presentation. The systemic infection of endothelial cells that line the vasculature with Orientia can lead to many complications and fatalities. In survivors, immunity does not last long, and is poorly cross-reactive among numerous strains. In addition, chronic infections are established in an unknown number of patients. All those characteristics justify the pursuit of a prophylactic vaccine against O. tsutsugamushi; however, despite continuous efforts to develop such a vaccine since World War II, the objective has not been attained. In this review, we discuss the history of vaccine development against Orientia to provide a clear picture of the challenges that we continue to face from the perspective of animal models and the immunological challenges posed by an intracellular bacterium that normally triggers a short-lived immune response. We finish with a proposal for development of an effective and safe vaccine for scrub typhus through a new approach with a strong focus on T cell-mediated immunity, empirical testing of the immunogenicity of proteins encoded by conserved genes, and assessment of protection in relevant animal models that truly mimic human scrub typhus.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Virus, Vaccine, Immunology, Humoral immunity, Scrub typhus, Orientia tsutsugamushi

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Orientia tsutsugamushi (Ots) is an obligate, intracellular, mite-transmitted human pathogen which causes scrub typhus. Understanding the diversity of Ots antigens is essential for designing specific diagnostic assays and efficient vaccines. The protective immunodominant type-specific 56 kDa antigen (TSA) of Ots varies locally and across its geographic distribution. TSA contains four hypervariable domains. We bioinformatically analyzed 345 partial sequences of TSA available from India, most of which contain only the three variable domains (VDI-III) and three spacer conserved domains (SVDI, SVDII/III, SVDIII). The total number (152) of antigenic types (amino acid variants) varied from 14-36 in the six domains of TSA that we studied. Notably, 55% (787/1435) of the predicted CD4 T-cell epitopes (TCEs) from all the six domains had high binding affinities (HBA) to at least one of the prevalent Indian human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles. A surprisingly high proportion (61%) of such TCEs were from spacer domains; indeed 100% of the CD4 TCEs in the SVDI were HBA. TSA sequences from India had more antigenic types (AT) than TSA from Korea. Overall, >90% of predicted CD4 TCEs from spacer domains were predicted to have HBA against one or more prevalent HLA types from Indian, Korean, Asia-Pacific region or global population data sets, while only <50% of CD4 TCEs in variable domains exhibited such HBA. The phylogenetically and immunologically important amino acids in the conserved spacer domains were identified. Our results suggest that the conserved spacer domains are predicted to be functionally more important than previously appreciated in immune responses to Ots infections. Changes occurring at the TCE level of TSA may contribute to the wide range of pathogenicity of Ots in humans and mouse models. CD4 T-cell functional experiments are needed to assess the immunological significance of these HBA spacer domains and their role in clearance of Ots from Indian patients.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, T helper cell, Antigen, Major histocompatibility complex, Epitope, Human leukocyte antigen, Scrub typhus

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Scrub typhus is becoming a clinically important cause of acute undifferentiated febrile illness in Taiwan. The incubation period is between 6 and 21 days after exposure. It is transmitted by chiggers (larva of trombiculid mite) in long grasses and in dirt-floor homes, with infection characterized by a flu-like illness of fever, headache, and myalgia lasting approximately 1 week. It has various systemic manifestations, including GI symptoms. In some, the illness progresses to multiorgan dysfunction syndrome and death. We report on a 13-year-old boy who lived in Taipei City and who had initially tentative diagnosis of acute pyrexia of unknown origin with high fever up to 40.3°C for 1 week, but later had thrombocytopenia and diffuse abdominal pain with peritoneal sign suspected acute appendicitis. During the clinical course, septic shock and disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC) were noted. There were skin rash in his trunk and extremities and an eschar with black crust surrounded by a scaling erythematous rim on his right buttock. In addition, we got the information of his travel history in Green Island and Orchid Island for 10 days.With the correct antibiotics, vancomycin, meropenem, and doxycycline, the patient was getting better and corresponding with high level of granulysin and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. The diagnosis of scrub typhus was confirmed by the biopsy of eschar and high quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction values of Orientia tsutsugamushi (16sRNA and 56 kDa) tested by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Taiwan. Histopathological findings of the eschar revealed the leukocytoclastic vasculitis, crust and thrombus formation with many gram-negative microorganisms, O. tsutsugamushi demonstrated by 47 kDa monoclonal antibody immunohistochemical stain and electromicroscopy.

Concepts: Inflammation, Infectious disease, Influenza, Abdominal pain, Immunohistochemistry, Fever, Disseminated intravascular coagulation, Scrub typhus

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We conducted a yearlong prospective study of febrile patients admitted to a tertiary referral hospital in Chittagong, Bangladesh, to assess the proportion of patients with rickettsial illnesses and identify the causative pathogens, strain genotypes, and associated seasonality patterns. We diagnosed scrub typhus in 16.8% (70/416) and murine typhus in 5.8% (24/416) of patients; 2 patients had infections attributable to undifferentiated Rickettsia spp. and 2 had DNA sequence-confirmed R. felis infection. Orientia tsutsugamushi genotypes included Karp, Gilliam, Kato, and TA763-like strains, with a prominence of Karp-like strains. Scrub typhus admissions peaked in a biphasic pattern before and after the rainy season, whereas murine typhus more frequently occurred before the rainy season. Death occurred in 4% (18/416) of cases; case-fatality rates were 4% each for scrub typhus (3/70) and murine typhus (1/28). Overall, 23.1% (96/416) of patients had evidence of treatable rickettsial illnesses, providing important evidence toward optimizing empirical treatment strategies.

Concepts: Infectious disease, Virus, Illness, Rickettsia, Typhus, Scrub typhus, Orientia tsutsugamushi, Orientia

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Scrub typhus is an acute febrile illness caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi. We prospectively studied the clinico-laboratory profile and outcome of 358 children aged 1 day to 18 years diagnosed with scrub typhus from Chennai, South India. All children (100%) had fever. Eschar was seen in 67%. All children were treated with oral doxycycline and those with complications were treated with intravenous chloramphenicol/azithromycin. Rapid defervescence (within 48 h) after initiation of doxycline was seen in 306 (85%) and 52 (14.5%) developed complications. Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that children who had an elevated aspartate amino transferase (> 120 IU/L) and the presence of thrombocytopenia (platelet count less than 1 lac cells/mm3) at admission had high risk of developing complications. The overall mortality rate in this series was 0.8%.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Logistic regression, Actuarial science, Platelet, Rickettsia, Typhus, Scrub typhus, Orientia tsutsugamushi

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Seasonal outbreaks of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) with high case fatality have been occurring in Gorakhpur division in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, India, for more than three decades. Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) accounted for <10% of AES cases, while the etiology of the remaining cases remained largely unknown. Investigations conducted during the 2014 and 2015 outbreaks indicated Orientia tsutsugamushi (Haruo Hayashi 1920) (Norio Ogata 1929) Tamura et al. 1995 (Rickettsiales: Rickettsiaceae) as the etiology in about 60% of AES cases. Hospital-based surveillance studies indicated that about one-fifth of the patients with acute febrile illness were due to scrub typhus. Further studies are required to identify the etiology of about a third of AES cases that test negative for scrub typhus, JEV, or dengue.

Concepts: Greek loanwords, Rickettsiales, Rickettsia, Encephalitis, Uttar Pradesh, Scrub typhus, Orientia tsutsugamushi, Gorakhpur

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Orientia tsutsugamushi is an obligate intracellular pathogen that causes scrub typhus. Diagnosing scrub typhus is still a challenge and sensitive, specific, simple, and rapid diagnostic tests is in need.

Concepts: Scrub typhus, Orientia tsutsugamushi

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The incidence rate of scrub typhus has been increasing in the Republic of Korea. Previous studies have suggested that this trend may have resulted from the effects of climate change on the transmission dynamics among vectors and hosts, but a clear explanation of the process is still lacking. In this study, we applied mathematical models to explore the potential factors that influence the epidemiology of tsutsugamushi disease.

Concepts: Scientific method, Epidemiology, Mathematics, Applied mathematics, Mathematical model, Republic of China, Typhus, Scrub typhus

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Investigation of a scrub typhus outbreak in Thailand during September 2013 found that 9.1% of Thai soldiers and 11.1% of residents living in areas surrounding training sites had antibodies against the causative agent, Orientia tsutsugamushi. Sequence analysis of O. tsutsugamushi from rodents and chiggers identified 7 genogroups and 3 genotypes.

Concepts: Rickettsia, Thailand, Typhus, Provinces of Thailand, Scrub typhus, Orientia tsutsugamushi, Chonburi Province, Pattaya