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Typhus Workup

  • Author: Jason F Okulicz, MD, FACP, FIDSA; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
 
Updated: Apr 06, 2015
 

Laboratory Studies

Laboratory studies are not particularly helpful in confirming a diagnosis of typhus. These studies assist the clinician in assessing the degree of severity of the illness and in helping exclude other diseases in the differential diagnoses.

The diagnosis of typhus is clinically suggested when the appropriate historical elements are elicited from a patient who presents with the characteristic symptoms and signs.

Antibiotic therapy should begin promptly when the diagnosis is suspected; thereafter, appropriate laboratory studies can be serially performed as needed.

Diagnosis may be confirmed using laboratory tests; however, more than one week may pass before patients mount a demonstrable immune response that can be measured serologically.

Laboratory confirmation of typhus is obtained irrespective of the clinical presentation.

Typhus is a vasculitic process that is capable of causing various abnormal laboratory values. Any organ may be affected, and multiorgan system dysfunction or failure may occur if the illness is not diagnosed and treated in the early stages. These abnormalities, listed by organ system, may include the following:

  • Renal - Azotemia/proteinuria
  • Hematologic
    • Leukopenia (common in the early stages of disease)
    • WBC count normal/mildly elevated later
    • Thrombocytopenia
  • Hepatic - Mild transaminase elevations
  • Metabolic - Hypoalbuminemia/electrolyte abnormalities (particularly hyponatremia)

Indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA) or enzyme immunoassay (EIA) testing can be used to evaluate for a rise in the immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibody titer, which indicates an acute primary disease.

Brill-Zinsser disease can be confirmed in a patient with a history of primary epidemic typhus who has recurrent symptoms and signs of typhus and a rise in the immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody titer, which indicates a secondary immune response.

IFA and EIA tests can be used to confirm a diagnosis of typhus, but they do not identify the various rickettsial species.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of rickettsial DNA of serum or skin biopsy specimens can be used for diagnosing typhus.[9]

The complement fixation (CF) test is a serological test that can be used to demonstrate which specific rickettsial organism is causing disease by detection of specific antibodies.

Rapid diagnostic assays for scrub typhus, such as latex agglutination tests, are currently under development.[10]

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Imaging Studies

No imaging studies are specifically indicated to aid in diagnosing typhus. Imaging studies are indicated only on a case-by-case basis to evaluate potential complications or as needed.

Chest radiography may be a complementary tool to evaluate the clinical course of scrub typhus. Chest radiographic examinations should be obtained during the first week after the onset of illness.[11]

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Histologic Findings

Rickettsia may be observed in tissue sections using Giemsa or Gimenez staining techniques.

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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Jason F Okulicz, MD, FACP, FIDSA Director, HIV Medical Evaluation Unit, Infectious Disease Service, San Antonio Military Medical Center; Associate Professor of Medicine, F Edward Hebert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences; Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; Adjunct Clinical Instructor, Feik School of Pharmacy, University of the Incarnate Word

Jason F Okulicz, MD, FACP, FIDSA is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Coauthor(s)

Burke A Cunha, MD Professor of Medicine, State University of New York School of Medicine at Stony Brook; Chief, Infectious Disease Division, Winthrop-University Hospital

Burke A Cunha, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Physicians, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Mark S Rasnake, MD, FACP Assistant Professor of Medicine, Program Director, Internal Medicine Residency, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Department of Infectious Diseases, University of Tennessee Medical Center at Knoxville

Mark S Rasnake, MD, FACP is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Advancement of Science, American College of Physicians, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Thomas M Kerkering, MD Chief of Infectious Diseases, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

Thomas M Kerkering, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Physicians, American Public Health Association, American Society for Microbiology, American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Medical Society of Virginia, Wilderness Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Michael Stuart Bronze, MD David Ross Boyd Professor and Chairman, Department of Medicine, Stewart G Wolf Endowed Chair in Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Science Center; Master of the American College of Physicians; Fellow, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Michael Stuart Bronze, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Medical Association, Oklahoma State Medical Association, Southern Society for Clinical Investigation, Association of Professors of Medicine, American College of Physicians, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

John M Leedom, MD Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California

John M Leedom, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine, American Society for Microbiology, Infectious Diseases Society of America, International AIDS Society, Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Acknowledgements

Eric A Hansen, DO Fellow, Clinical Instructor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Winthrop-University Hospital, State University of New York at Stony Brook

Eric A Hansen, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American Medical Association, American Osteopathic Association, Infectious Diseases Society of America, and Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

References
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