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Int J Infect Dis. 2013 Nov;17(11):e981-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2013.05.017. Epub 2013 Jul 26.

Scrub typhus in South India: clinical and laboratory manifestations, genetic variability, and outcome.

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Medicine Unit I and Infectious Diseases, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India. Electronic address:



This study sought to document the clinical and laboratory manifestations, genetic variability, and outcomes of scrub typhus, an often severe infection caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi, in South India.


Patients admitted to a large teaching hospital with IgM ELISA-confirmed scrub typhus were evaluated. Clinical examination with a thorough search for an eschar, laboratory testing, chest X-ray, and outcome were documented and analyzed. Additionally, a 410-bp region of the 56-kDa type-specific antigen gene of O. tsutsugamushi was sequenced and compared with isolates from other regions of Asia.


Most of the 154 patients evaluated presented with fever and non-specific symptoms. An eschar was found in 86 (55%) patients. Mild hepatic involvement was seen in most, with other organ involvement including respiratory, cardiovascular, and renal. Multi-organ dysfunction was noted in 59 (38.3%), and the fatality rate was 7.8%. Hypotension requiring vasoactive agents was found to be an independent predictor of mortality (p<0.001). The phylogeny of 26 samples showed 17 (65%) clustering with the Kato-like group and eight (31%) with the Karp-like group.


The presentation of scrub typhus can be variable, often non-specific, but with potentially severe multi-organ dysfunction. Prompt recognition is key to specific treatment and good outcomes. Further study of the circulating strains is essential for the development of a successful vaccine and sensitive point-of-care testing.


Clinical manifestations; Genetic variability; Orientia tsutsugamushi; Outcome; Scrub typhus

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