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2020 Apr 15

Trop Med Infect Dis



Rickettsial Diseases: Not Uncommon Causes of Acute Febrile Illness in India.


Biswal M, Krishnamoorthi S, Bisht K, Sehgal A, Kaur J, Sharma N, Suri V, Sethi S
Trop Med Infect Dis. 2020 Apr 15; 5(2).
PMID: 32326477.


Rickettsial diseases (RDs) are major under-diagnosed causes of arthropod borne acute febrile illness (AFI) presenting with a range of symptoms from mild self-limiting fever to fatal sepsis. The spotted fever group (SFG) and typhus group (TG) are major RDs, which are commonly caused by and , respectively. The limited availability and role of serological tests in the acute phase of illness warrants rapid reliable molecular methods for diagnosis and epidemiological studies. Two hundred patients with AFI in whom the routine fever diagnostics were negative, were enrolled over a period of two months (April 2019 to May 2019). DNA was extracted and in-house nested PCR using primers specific for both SPG and TG pathogens was used. The positive amplified products were sequenced for species identification and phylogenetic analysis was performed using MEGA 7.0.14 software (iGEM, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA). The demographic details of the RD cases were documented. The prevalence of RD among AFI cases was 7% (14/200); SFG and TG were identified as the cause in 4% and 3% of AFI cases, respectively. The median age of the RD cases was 22 years (range 2-65). The median duration of fever was 3 days (range 1-12). The RD cases presented with respiratory symptoms or signs (44.44%), jaundice (22.22%), abdominal pain (22.22%), diarrhea (22.22), vesicular rash (11.11%), vomiting (11.11%), loss of appetite (11.11%), headache (11.11%), leukocytosis (88.88% with mean count 22,750/mm), and thrombocytopenia (33.33%). The cases were treated empirically with piperacillin-tazobactam (66.66%), clindamycin (44.44%), cefotaxime (33.33%), meropenem (33.33%), metronidazole (33.33%), doxycycline (22.22%), azithromycin (22.22%), ceftriaxone (11.11%), and amoxicillin-clavulanic acid (11.11%). The mortality among the RD cases was 11.11%. The present pilot study shows that RD is not an uncommon cause of AFI in north India. The febrile episodes are usually transient, not severe and associated with heterogenous clinical presentation without documented history of tick exposure in the hospitalized patients. The transient, non-severe, febrile illness could be due to transient rickettsemia resulting from empirical antimicrobial therapy as the rickettsial organisms are expected to be more susceptible to higher doses of β-lactam antibiotics. The study emphasizes the molecular method as a useful tool to identify rickettsial etiology in AFI.