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Dtsch Med Wochenschr. 2001 May 4;126(18):523-6.

[Fever and exanthema after trip to the Mediterranean area--Mediterranean spotted fever (Boutonneuse fever)].

[Article in German]

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Bernhard-Nocht-Institut für Tropenmedizin, Hamburg.



In connection with a period of residence in the Mediterranean basin (Portugal, Spain, Sicily) one woman and two men (age: 28, 31 and 40 years) got sick with fever in August and in the midst of October. In addition, they complained about headache in two cases and myalgias, arthralgia and vomiting in one case, respectively. Two of the vacationers (cases 2 and 3) had been accompanied by their dogs. One of them (case 2) was bitten of a tick. The woman (case 3) removed few days after vacation-beginning ticks from her dogs. Patients 1 and 2 appeared severely ill and presented with high fever and generalized maculopapular rash which included also the soles and palms. Patients 2 and 3 had a primarily-lesion ("eschar"). In patient 3 the eschar was pustular and associated with regional lymphadenitis.


All three patients showed an increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate and elevated liver enzymes. Cases 1 and 2 presented with a significantly elevated activity of lactate dehydrogenase, leukocyturia and microhematuria. Indirect immunofluorescent assay for specific antibodies directed against Rickettsia conorii revealed titers between 1:40 and 1:640 (normal: negative).


Diagnosis was based on the triad fever, rash and eschar as well as on epidemiological data which include a recent period of residence in the Mediterranean basin during the summer and contact with a dog. In case 1 diagnosis was difficult because of the absence of an eschar. This patient had been treated with penicillin for two days without success. Only the parenteral administration of ciprofloxacin caused complete defervescence and clinical improvement within two days. A complete defervescence within two days was reached with doxycycline also in case 2. In comparison to these cases, the course in the third patient was mild, and the patient defervesced spontaneously.


Mediterranean spotted fever should be considered in the case of unclear fever and rash following a period of residence in the Mediterranean basin during summer time. An eschar may confirm this diagnosis, and early start of therapy may shorten the course of the disease and prevent complications.

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