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Int J Infect Dis. 2018 Jun;71:53-55. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2018.03.018. Epub 2018 Apr 10.

Kinetics of IgM and IgG antibodies after scrub typhus infection and the clinical implications.

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Department of Infectious Diseases, Christian Medical College, Vellore 632004, Tamil Nadu, India. Electronic address:
Department of Infectious Diseases, Christian Medical College, Vellore 632004, Tamil Nadu, India.



The serological detection of IgM antibodies is the most widely used test to diagnose scrub typhus infection. However, the kinetics of IgM and IgG antibodies post-infection remain elusive, which could contribute to false positivity. The objective of this study was to document the nature of the evolution of these antibody titres after infection.


Adult patients previously confirmed to have scrub typhus by IgM ELISA, positive PCR, or both, were included in this cross-sectional study. The levels of IgM and IgG antibodies in serum samples were tested using an ELISA and the distribution curve was plotted.


Two hundred and three patients were included in this study. Post-infection serum sampling was done between 1 month and 46 months after documented infection. IgM levels declined gradually but remained elevated above the diagnostic cut-off for up to 12 months post-infection. However, IgG levels continued to rise reaching a peak at 10 months, followed by a gradual decline over several months. In the majority of cases, the IgG levels remained above the cut-off threshold for more than 36 months.


Clinicians need to be cautious in using a single serum sample for the detection of IgM to diagnose scrub typhus, as it remains elevated for up to 12 months after the infection, whereas the serum IgG level could be used as an indicator of past infection.


IgG; IgM; Kinetics; Orientia tsutsugamushi; Rickettsia; Scrub typhus

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