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Concept: Typhus


BACKGROUND: Although an initial IFA-IgG titer greater or equal to 1/64 or 1/128 is considered positive in presumptive diagnosis, in clinical practice in an endemic setting for rickettsioses in Sri Lanka, some patients with IFA-IgG titer of 1/128 for either spotted fever group (SFG) or scrub typhus (ST) did not respond to treatment. FINDINGS: To determine a clinically helpful diagnostic algorithm, IFA-IgG results of serologically confirmed treatment responders were analyzed in relation to duration of illness at sampling.Of 146 suspected SFG, 3 responders of 25 patients had titers <=1/128 with < 7 days of illness while all 9 with titers >=1/256 responded (false negative with 1/256 cutoff was 12%, false positive was 0%). For illness > 7 days, the false negative and positive rates were 4.3% (3/59) and 11.3% (6/53). Of 115 suspected ST, false negative and positive rates with >=1/256 cutoff at <7 days of illness were (2/15) and 0% (0/8) respectively while > 7 days, false negative and positive rates were 2% (1/51) and 0% (0/42). CONCLUSIONS: For clinical decision making, duration of illness at sampling is important in interpreting serology results in an endemic setting. If sample is obtained <=7 day of illness, an IgG titer of <=1/128 requires a follow up sample in the diagnosis and > 7 days of illness, a single >=1/256 titer is diagnostic for all ST and 90% of SFG.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Rickettsia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Sri Lanka, Inequality, Typhus, Equality


Scrub typhus is a lethal human disease transmitted by larval trombiculid mites (i.e., chiggers) that have been infected with the rickettsia Orientia tsutsugamushi. In total, 21 chigger species are known from Taiwan. We update the checklist of chiggers of Taiwan based on an intensive survey of shrew and rodent hosts in grasslands and agricultural fields in lowland Taiwan, coupled with surveys of forests in one mountainous site and an opportunistic examination of submitted host specimens. Three new species of chiggers, Gahrliepia (Gateria) lieni sp. n., Gahrliepia (Gateria) minuta sp. n., and Gahrliepia (Gateria) yilanensis sp. n., as well as 23 newly recorded chigger species, were discovered. Accordingly, recorded chigger species of Taiwan more than doubled from 21 to 47 species. Two new species and nine newly recorded chigger species were discovered in forests in one mountainous site in northeastern Taiwan, suggesting that many more chigger species may be uncovered, particularly in mountainous Taiwan. Further studies should also investigate O. tsutsugamushi infection in different chigger species to assess its risks to human health.

Concepts: Rickettsia, Acari, Typhus, Trombiculidae, Scrub typhus, Orientia tsutsugamushi, Harvest mite, Gahrliepia


In South Korea, scrub typhus is one of the most common rickettsial diseases. The number of scrub typhus patients has increased in South Korea, a total of 69,210 cases were reported from 2001 to 2013. The seasonality and relation of scrub typhus cases to latitude were analyzed in this article using data obtained from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System website of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The incidence of scrub typhus tended to increase in the later months, especially October-December, over the years. In general, lower latitudes were associated with a later peak incidence. Our results suggest for the first time that the monthly observed incidence tended to increase in the later months of the year as the latitude decreased, and on a yearly basis in Korea.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Earth, Rickettsia, Season, Typhus, Year, Latitude


We characterized the epidemiology of typhus group rickettsiosis in Texas, USA. During 2003-2013, a total of 1,762 cases were reported to the state health department. The number of diagnosed cases and geographic expansion increased over time. Physician awareness is critical to diagnose and effectively treat rickettsial infections.

Concepts: Infectious disease, Virus, United States, Rickettsia, U.S. state, Barack Obama, American Civil War, Typhus


An increase in typhus group rickettsiosis and an expanding geographic range occurred in Texas, USA, over a decade. Because this illness commonly affects children, we retrospectively examined medical records from 2008-2016 at a large Houston-area pediatric hospital and identified 36 cases. The earliest known cases were diagnosed in 2011.

Concepts: Medicine, United States, Physician, Pediatrics, Texas, Children's hospital, Typhus, Houston


Although flea-borne rickettsiosis is endemic in Los Angeles County, outbreaks are rare. In the spring of 2015 three human cases of flea-borne rickettsiosis among residents of a mobile home community (MHC) prompted an investigation. Fleas were ubiquitous in common areas due to presence of flea-infested opossums and overabundant outdoor cats and dogs. The MHC was summarily abated in June 2015, and within five months, flea control and removal of animals significantly reduced the flea population. Two additional epidemiologically-linked human cases of flea-borne rickettsiosis detected at the MHC were suspected to have occurred before control efforts began. Molecular testing of 106 individual and 85 pooled cat fleas, blood and ear tissue samples from three opossums and thirteen feral cats using PCR amplification and DNA sequencing detected rickettsial DNA in 18.8% of the fleas. Seventeen percent of these cat fleas tested positive for R. felis-specific DNA compared to under two (<2) percent for Candidatus R. senegalensis-specific DNA. In addition, serological testing of 13 cats using a group-specific IgG-ELISA detected antibodies against typhus group rickettsiae and spotted fever group rickettsiae in six (46.2%) and one (7.7%) cat, respectively. These results indicate that cats and their fleas may have played an active role in the epidemiology of the typhus group and/or spotted fever group rickettsial disease(s) in this outbreak.

Concepts: DNA, Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Flea, Polymerase chain reaction, Molecular biology, Cat health, Typhus


With few studies conducted to date, very little is known about the epidemiology of rickettsioses in Bhutan. Due to two previous outbreaks and increasing clinical cases, scrub typhus is better recognized than other rickettsial infections and Q fever.

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


Rickettsia species are obligate intracellular bacteria with both conserved and lineage-specific strategies for invading and surviving within eukaryotic cells. One variable component of Rickettsia biology involves arthropod vectors: for instance, Typhus Group rickettsiae are principally vectored by insects (i.e. lice and fleas) whereas Spotted Fever Group rickettsiae are exclusively vectored by ticks. For flea-borne Rickettsia typhi, the etiological agent of Murine Typhus, research on vertebrate host biology is facilitated using cell lines and animal models. However, due to the lack of any stable flea cell line or a published flea genome sequence, little is known regarding R. typhi biology in flea vectors that, importantly, do not suffer lethality due to R. typhi infection. To address if fleas combat rickettsial infection, we characterized the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) innate immune response to R. typhi Initially, we determined that R. typhi infects Drosophila cells and increases antimicrobial peptide (AMP) gene expression, indicating immune pathway activation. While bioinformatics analysis of the C. felis transcriptome identified homologs to all of the Drosophila IMD and Toll pathway components, an AMP gene expression profile in Drosophila cells indicated IMD pathway activation upon rickettsial infection. Accordingly, we assessed R. typhi-mediated flea IMD pathway activation in vivo using siRNA-mediated knockdown. Knockdown of Relish and Imd increased R. typhi infection levels, implicating the IMD pathway as a critical regulator of R. typhi burden in C. felis These data suggest that targeting the IMD pathway could minimize the spread of R. typhi, and potentially other human pathogens, vectored by fleas.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Gene, Bacteria, Organism, Virus, Rickettsia, Typhus


Outbreaks of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) have been occurring in Gorakhpur Division, Uttar Pradesh, India, for several years. In 2016, we conducted a case-control study. Our findings revealed a high proportion of AES cases with Orientia tsutsugamushi IgM and IgG, indicating that scrub typhus is a cause of AES.

Concepts: Encephalitis, Typhus, States and territories of India, Urdu, Uttar Pradesh, Scrub typhus, Orientia tsutsugamushi, Gorakhpur


To increase knowledge of undifferentiated fevers in Kenya, we tested paired serum samples from febrile children in western Kenya for antibodies against pathogens increasingly recognized to cause febrile illness in Africa. Of patients assessed, 8.9%, 22.4%, 1.1%, and 3.6% had enhanced seroreactivity to Coxiella burnetii, spotted fever group rickettsiae, typhus group rickettsiae, and scrub typhus group orientiae, respectively.

Concepts: HIV, Infectious disease, Malaria, Coxiella burnetii, Q fever, Rickettsia, Fever, Typhus