Rickettsial infections

General or Other | General Practice | Rickettsial infections (Disease)


Rickettsiae comprise a group of microorganisms that phylogenetically occupy a position between bacteria and viruses. Rickettsiae are a rather diverse collection of organisms with several differences; this prohibits their description as a single homogenous group. A general characteristic of rickettsiae is that mammals and arthropods are natural hosts. Rickettsioses are usually transmitted to humans by arthropods.

Causes and Risk factors

As severe rickettsial diseases progress, people typically experience confusion and severe weakness—often with cough, difficulty breathing, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. In some people, the liver or spleen enlarges, the kidneys malfunction, and blood pressure falls dangerously low. Death can result.

Diagnosis and Treatment

No vaccines or drugs are available for preventing rickettsial infections. Antibiotics are not recommended for prophylaxis of rickettsial diseases and should not be prescribed to asymptomatic people exposed to ticks. The best prevention is to minimize exposure to infectious arthropods (particularly lice, fleas, ticks, mites) and animal reservoirs, particularly dogs and cats, when traveling in endemic areas.