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PLoS One. 2014 Dec 12;9(12):e113193. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113193. eCollection 2014.

Coincidence between geographical distribution of Leptotrombidium scutellare and scrub typhus incidence in South Korea.

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Division of Medical Entomology, Center for Immunology and Pathology, Korea National Institute of Health, Cheongju, Korea.
Division of Arboviruses, Center for Immunology and Pathology, Korea National Institute of Health, Cheongju, Korea.
Division of Biosafety Evaluation and Control, Korea National Institute of Health, Cheongju, Korea.


To clarify the geographical distribution of scrub typhus vectors in Korea, a survey of larval trombiculid mites was conducted from 2005 to 2007 by collecting wild small mammals twice a year (spring and autumn) at 24 sites nationwide. A total of 67,325 mites representing 4 genera and 14 species were collected from 783 trapped rodents, corresponding to a chigger index (number of chigger mites per rodent) of 86.0. The predominant mite species were Leptotrombidium pallidum (52.6%), Leptotrombiduim scutellare (27.1%), Leptotrombidium palpale (8.2%), Leptotrombidium orientale (5.6%), and Neotrombicula tamiyai (1.7%). However, the proportions of L. scutellare in southern areas, including endemic provinces such as Jeollabuk-Do (34.3%), Jeollanam-Do (49.0%), and Gyeongsangnam-Do (88%), were relatively higher than in central Korean regions where L. pallidum was predominant. In autumn, the ratio of L. scutellare increased to 42% while the ratio of L. pallidum decreased. The geographical distribution map of the L. scutellare chigger index was identical to the incidence pattern of scrub typhus, whereas those of overall mites and L. pallidum showed no relationship with case incidence patterns. Distribution mapping analysis shows an identical geographical distribution of L. scutellare and epidemic incidence of scrub typhus in South Korea. L. pallidum could be another vector at all other parts of the Korean peninsula, including the eastern and northern regions that have a low level of scrub typhus incidence.

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