Scrub Typhus and the Misconception of Doxycycline Resistance
Wangrangsimakul T., Phuklia W., Newton PN., Richards AL., Day NPJ.
Abstract Scrub typhus, a neglected infectious disease caused by the obligate intracellular bacterium Orientia tsutsugamushi, is a major cause of fever across the Asia Pacific region with more than a billion people at risk. Treatment with antibiotics such as doxycycline or chloramphenicol is effective for the majority of patients. In the 1990s, reports from northern Thailand raised a troubling observation; some scrub typhus patients responded poorly to doxycycline, which investigators attributed to doxycycline resistance. Despite the controversial nature of these reports, independent verification was neglected, with subsequent studies speculating on the role of doxycycline resistance in contributing to failure of treatment or prophylaxis. In this review, we have outlined the evidence for drug-resistant Orientia tsutsugamushi, assessed the evidence for doxycycline resistance, and highlight more recent findings unsupportive of doxycycline resistance. We conclude that doxycycline resistance is a misconception, with treatment outcome likely to be determined by other bacterial, host, and pharmacological factors.