Underdiagnoses of Rickettsia in patients hospitalized with acute fever in Indonesia: Observational study results

Dewi Lokida, Usman Hadi, Chuen Yen Lau, Herman Kosasih, C. Jason Liang, Musofa Rusli, Pratiwi Sudarmono, Nurhayati Lukman, Kanti Laras, Rizka Humardewayantie Asdie, Dewi Murniati, I. Made Susila Utama, Risna Halim Mubin, Muhammad Karyana, Muhammad Hussein Gasem, Bachti Alisjahbana

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Reports of human rickettsial infection in Indonesia are limited. This study sought to characterize the epidemiology of human rickettsioses amongst patients hospitalized with fever at 8 tertiary hospitals in Indonesia. Methods: Acute and convalescent blood from 975 hospitalized non-dengue patients was tested for Rickettsia IgM and IgG by ELISA. Specimens from cases with seroconversion or increasing IgM and/or IgG titers were tested for Rickettsia IgM and IgG by IFA and Rickettsia genomes using primers for Rickettsia (R.) sp, R. typhi, and Orientia tsutsugamushi. Testing was performed retrospectively on stored specimens; results did not inform patient management. Results: R. typhi, R. rickettsii, and O. tsutsugamushi IgG antibodies were identified in 269/872 (30.8%), 36/634 (5.7%), and 19/504 (3.8%) of samples, respectively. For the 103/975 (10.6%) non-dengue patients diagnosed with acute rickettsial infection, presenting symptoms included nausea (72%), headache (69%), vomiting (43%), lethargy (33%), anorexia (32%), arthralgia (30%), myalgia (28%), chills (28%), epigastric pain (28%), and rash (17%). No acute rickettsioses cases were suspected during hospitalization. Discharge diagnoses included typhoid fever (44), dengue fever (20), respiratory infections (7), leptospirosis (6), unknown fever (6), sepsis (5), hepatobiliary infections (3), UTI (3), and others (9). Fatalities occurred in 7 (6.8%) patients, mostly with co-morbidities. Conclusions: Rickettsial infections are consistently misdiagnosed, often as leptospirosis, dengue, or Salmonella typhi infection. Clinicians should include rickettsioses in their differential diagnosis of fever to guide empiric management; laboratories should support evaluation for rickettsial etiologies; and public policy should be implemented to reduce burden of disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number364
JournalBMC Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2020


  • Clinical pathway
  • Indonesia
  • Rickettsioses


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