Imported rickettsial infections to the United Kingdom, 2015–2020

Clare E. Warrell*, Jane Osborne, Laura Nabarro, Barry Gibney, Daniel P. Carter, Jennifer Warner, Catherine F. Houlihan, Timothy J.G. Brooks, Tommy Rampling

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: The burden of imported rickettsial infection in the UK is not previously described. This retrospective review identifies rickettsial cases diagnosed at the national reference laboratory between 2015 and 2022. Methods: Samples testing positive for spotted fever group, typhus group, and scrub typhus IgG/IgM on acute and convalescent blood samples, and/or PCR on tissue/blood were categorized as suspected, confirmed or past infection. Results: 220 patients had rickettsioses, and the commonest import was acute spotted fever group infection (61%, 125/205), 54% (62/114) from South Africa. In acute typhus group cases, 60% (40/67) were from Southeast Asia. One patient with Rickettsia typhi bacteremia died. Scrub typhus group infections (5%, 10/205) were exclusively from Asia and the Western Pacific regions. Overall, 43% of confirmed cases (39/91) had not received doxycycline prior to results. Conclusions: Rickettsial infections are important and under-recognized causes of imported fever in the UK. Thorough history, examination, and timely treatment with doxycycline should be considered if there is suspicion of Rickettsia infection before testing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)446-452
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Infection
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors


  • Eschar
  • Fever
  • Murine typhus
  • Rickettsia
  • Scrub typhus
  • Spotted fever
  • Tick


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