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Scrub typhus is prevalent in large areas of Asia and Oceania. It is caused by particularly small bacteria (Orientia tsutsugamushi), which are transmitted by the bites of mites.
High fever, headache, lymph node swelling, and rashes are the most frequent signs of disease. Occasionally the brain and the heart can be affected, and in recent years, dangerous lung involvements have been reported. There is no vaccine, but a simple antibiotic treatment is very effective, if given early. We have infected laboratory mice by pinprick and followed the course of infection, first from the skin to the regional lymph nodes and later into the liver, heart, lungs and the brain. Most of the bacteria were found in the lungs, accompanied by severe signs of inflammation. We hope this animal model will facilitate a better understanding of this widely-spread but also widely-neglected tropical disease.
Christian Keller, Matthias Hauptmann, Julia Kolbaum, Mohammad Gharaibeh, Bernhard Fleischer and external co-operation partners (see publication)