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Tsutsugamushi Disease (Scrub Typhus) Meningoencephalitis in North Eastern India: A Prospective Study

SR Sharma
H Masaraf
KG Lynrah
M Lyngdoh


Background: Scrub typhus is rampant in northern, eastern, and southern India. Central nervous system involvement in the form of meningitis or meningoencephalitis is common in scrub typhus. As specific laboratory methods remain inadequate or inaccessible in developing countries, prompt diagnosis is often difficult.

Aim: The aim of this study was to characterize neurological complications in scrub typhus from northeastern region of India.

Subjects and Methods: We did a prospective study of scrub meningoencephalitis at North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Medical Sciences among patients admitted to hospital between October 2009 and November 2011. The diagnosis was made based on the clinical pictures, presence of an eschar, and a positive Weil.Felix test (WFT) with a titer of >1:160 and if required a positive scrub IgM enzyme.linked immunosorbent assay. Lumbar puncture was performed in patients with headache, nuchal rigidity, altered sensorium or cranial nerve deficits, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain performed if needed.

Results: Twenty.three patients of scrub typhus meningitis that were serologically confirmed were included in the study. There were 13 males and 10 females. Fever .1 week was the most common manifestation (39.1%).Interestingly, none had an eschar. Median cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) cell count, lymphocyte percentage, CSF protein, CSF glucose/blood glucose, CSF ADA were 17 cells/µL, 90%, 86 mg/dL, 0.6605 and 3.6 U/mL, respectively. All patients were treated with doxycycline. There was no mortality in our study.

Conclusions: Absence of Eschar does not rule out scrub typhus. Clinical features and CSF findings can mimic tuberculous meningitis so misdiagnosis may lead to unwarranted prolonged empirical antituberculous therapy in cases of lymphocytic meningoencephalitis. Delay in treatment can be potentially fatal. WFT still serves as a useful and affordable diagnostic tool for this disease in resource.poor countries.

Key words: Eschar, Meningoencephalitis, Orientia tsutsugamushi, Scrub Typhus, Weil.Felix Test