Epidemiology and clinico-laboratory manifestations of scrub typhus in Hadoti region of Rajasthan, India: A cross-sectional study : Journal of Acute Disease

Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Original Article

Epidemiology and clinico-laboratory manifestations of scrub typhus in Hadoti region of Rajasthan, India

A cross-sectional study

Jain, Pankaj; Sharma, Manoj; Seval, Manoj; Meena, Pramod

Author Information
Journal of Acute Disease 12(2):p 57-60, April 2023. | DOI: 10.4103/2221-6189.374311
  • Open



To study epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and laboratory parameters of scrub typhus in Hadoti region of Rajasthan, India.


A cross-sectional study was conducted on 50 patients with scrub typhus between August 2022 and November 2022. Scrub typhus was diagnosed by ELISA IgM scrub typhus antibody. The data about demography, vital parameters, and lab investigations were collected and analyzed.


Ninety-two percent of the patients were from a rural background (92%), 86% were farmers and the majority were females. Most patients were 40-60 years old. The major complaints were fever (100%), myalgia (100%), headache (82%), and body swelling (80%). Major complications were pneumonia (68%), multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (62%), hepatitis (44%), and acute kidney injury (42%). Triglyceride levels were >200 mg/dL in 80% of patients, albumin <3.5 g/dL in 98% and eschar mark was present in 24% of patients.


Scrub typhus is a serious acute febrile illness that can lead to multi-organ dysfunction and is associated with significant mortality. Increasing awareness regarding disease in endemic regions, early screening of patients, and treatment as early as possible could help prevent the patient from severe life-threatening complications.

1. Introduction

Scrub typhus is an acute febrile illness endemic to the ‘tsutsugamushi triangle’, which encompasses broad areas of south and southeastern Asia, the Asian Pacific Rim, and northern Australia, with a population of over one billion people[1]. This infection is caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi, which is an obligate intracellular Gram-negative bacterium, transmitted to humans by the bite of the larval stage of trombiculid mites. It is a seasonal infectious disease occurring between August to December. A clear re-emergence of the disease has been documented in the southern part of India and some states of north India like Rajasthan[2], is more prevalent in Hadoti region of Rajasthan. As scrub typhus is more prevalent in this region of the state, we conducted a cross-sectional study to study epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and laboratory parameters of scrub typhus.

The disease mainly presented with fever, headache, myalgia, cough, breathlessness, generalized body swelling, seizures, and altered sensorium, in which fever is the most common presenting symptom. In a highly variable percentage (10%-92%) of patients an eschar mark can be found at the inoculation site[3]. The infection can range from a self-limiting disease to a fatal illness in 35%-50% of cases, with multiorgan dysfunction, if not promptly diagnosed and appropriately treated[4]. Complications including acute respiratory distress syndrome, hepatitis, renal failure, meningoencephalitis, and myocarditis with circulatory collapse may present in a varying percentage of patients.

The disease is presented with various abnormal laboratory parameters including thrombocytopenia, deranged liver function test with transaminitis, reported in the majority of cases (66.7% to > 90%)[2,5,6], renal dysfunction as evidenced by elevated serum creatinine, most studies have reported it to be presented in 10%-20%[2,6], and hypoalbuminemia, increased triglyceride levels, increased lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), hypocalcemia in variable proportion.

2. Patients and methods

2.1. Study design

This cross-sectional study was conducted from August 2022 to November 2022. Patients over the age of 14 years with acute febrile illness, admitted to the Medicine Department of Government Medical College & Attached Hospitals, Kota were included in the study. The sample was collected using a nonprobability convenience sampling technique.

2.2. Methodology

During the time of admission, a structured questionnaire was administered to assess the demographic variable. Data were collected regarding demographics, occupation, clinical presentation, delay in presentation to hospital, complications, and laboratory data (complete blood counts, urine complete, blood urea, serum creatinine, liver function tests, lipid profile, serum LDH, creatine kinase isoenzyme, serum calcium), requirement of oxygen, ventilatory support, vasopressor support, duration of illness before hospital admission, and duration of hospital admission. All patients underwent complete history, general physical & systemic examination. Specific emphasis was given to patient’s vitals and the presence of an eschar mark. The diagnosis was confirmed by serum IgM ELISA scrub typhus. The presence of an eschar mark provided supportive evidence.

2.3. Ethical statement

Ethical clearance was taken from Institutional ethical committee of GMC, Kota, India. Written informed consent was obtained for each patient before their enrollment in the study.

2.4. Statistical analysis

After initiating treatment, the primary outcomes were the number of days required for complete recovery of the patient and mortality. Data were presented as numbers and percentages and analyzed using Microsoft Excel.

3. Results

A total of 89 patients presented with acute febrile illness and were potentially eligible candidates for the study. Out of which 63 candidates were confirmed eligible as scrub typhus IgM was positive in these patients. Out of these 63 candidates, 9 patients lost to follow up and 4 patients did not consent for study. Finally 50 patients completed the follow up and all of them were included in the study (Figure 1).

Figure 1:
The study flow diagram.

3.1. Demographic and basic characteristics

Most of the patients were admitted in September 2022 and after September, there was a steep decline in the number of cases. Very few cases were reported in November 2022. Out of the total patients admitted, 92% of the patients were from a rural background, 86% were farmers, and the majority were females (female/male=6:4) (Table 1).

Table 1:
Demographic and basic characteristics (n=50).

3.2. Clinical symptoms and complications

Out of the 50 patients included in the study, all of them complained of fever and myalgia. Majority of them had headache, nausea, vomiting, cough, shortness of breath, generalized body swelling. Few of them also developed seizures, altered sensorium, hepatosplenomegaly and eschar mark. Complications like pneumonia and multi organ dysfunction syndrome were seen in majority of patients and some of them developed hepatitis, acute kidney injury, and shock (Table 2).

Table 2:
Clinical symptoms and complications (n=50).

3.3. Laboratory results

Anemia (<10 g/dL) was observed in 26% of patients and thrombocytopenia in 90% of patients, out of which 4 patients required packed cell volume transfusion and 7 patients required platelets transfusion. Bilirubin>2.5 mg/dL was seen in 32% of patients and serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase/serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase more than 4 times of upper limit was seen in 38% of patients, creatinine ≥1.5 mg/dL was seen in 42% of patients, triglyceride >200 mg/dL was in 80% of patients, high-density lipoprotein<30 mg/dL in 76% of patients, low-density lipoprotein (LDH)>480 IU/L in 90% of patients, albumin<3.5 g/dL in 98% of patients. Hypocalcemia (<8 mg/dL) was observed in 56% of patients (Table 3).

Table 3:
Laboratory data (n=50).

It was observed that in critically ill patients, triglyceride levels and LDH level was high while serum albumin and serum calcium levels were decreased. With the improvement in clinical status, levels of these indexes became near normal without any intervention.

3.4. Treatment and outcomes

The average duration of illness before hospital admission was 8 days and the average duration of hospital stay was 6.5 days. It was observed that patients who presented late in hospital during course of illness were found more critically ill and their hospital stay was also long.

Oxygen support was required in 64% of patients and they were put on either a simple oxygen mask or a nonrebreathing face mask according to oxygen requirement. A total of 12% required invasive ventilatory support and 4% required non-invasive ventilatory support. Vasopressor support was required in 40% of patients and 56% of patients required ICU admission. Mortality was 18%.

4. Discussion

Scrub typhus is a potentially fatal infection that affects about one million people every year[1]. In our study, most of the patients were from a rural area (92%), which is slightly higher compared to the study of Saha et al[7](78.6%). A total of 86% of patients were farmers or engaged in animal husbandry.

Patients were between 15 to 80 years old but most of the cases were between the age of 40 to 60 years old. More patients were female, which is similar to the study by Takhar et al[8]. It is because most of the work related to farming and husbandry is carried out by females in this region.

In this study, cases of scrub typhus occurred between August to November and more occurred in September, which is similar to other studies as well[8,9,10]. In this study, mean duration of illness before the hospital visit was 8 days, and patients presented with fever (100%), myalgia (100%), headache (82%), nausea/vomiting (62%), cough (68%), shortness of breath (60%), seizure (10%), altered sensorium (20%), and body swelling (80%).

Skin lesion eschar mark was present in 24% of patients. The incidence varies from 10% to 70% in various studies[7,11]. The variation in the incidence of an eschar may represent the different geographic distribution of the various strain of the organism or inadequate search for the eschar; further research is warranted in this area[1].

In this study, pulmonary dysfunction was the most common complication (64%) and it varied from mild pneumonia to acute respiratory distress syndrome, in which 16% of patients required ventilatory support. In the study by Varghese et al[1], the most common complication was also pulmonary dysfunction and 69% of patients required ventilatory support. Other complications include shock (40%), hepatitis (44%), multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (62%), and acute renal failure (42%). The incidence of renal impairment is higher than the 18% reported by Varghese et al[1] and 23.2% reported by Attur et al[12], and 66.4% reported by Mahajan et al[2]. Higher mortality was seen in the patients who presented with acute respiratory distress syndrome and hypotension and required vasopressor support. In this study, thrombocytopenia was seen in 90%, increased triglyceride was seen in 80%, decreased albumin levels in 98%, and increased LDH in 90% of patients.

Fatality rate varies from 0% to 25% in various studies conducted in India[8,11,13], while in this study, it was 18%.

Scrub typhus is a serious acute febrile illness that can lead to multiorgan dysfunction and is associated with significant mortality. Mortality is significantly higher in a patient with pulmonary dysfunction or renal failure and in those who required vasopressor support for hypotension. Because of increasing awareness and early diagnosis, mortality is decreasing over several years. By increasing awareness regarding disease in endemic regions, early screening of patients, and treatment as early as possible we can prevent the patient from severe life-threatening complications.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors report no conflict of interest.


This study received no extramural funding.

Authors’ contributions

PJ developed the concept and design of the study. M Sharma contributed with literature search, data acquisition. Data analysis, statistical analysis, manuscript preparation and editing was done by M Sharma and M Seval. PM and All authors have reviewed and approved the final version of the manuscript.


1. Varghese GM, Trowbridge P, Janardhanan J, Thomas K, Peter JV, Mathews P, et al Clinical profile and improving mortality trend of scrub typhus in South India Int J Infect Dis. 2014;23:39–43
2. Mahajan SK, Rolain J, Kashyap R, Bakshi D, Sharma V, Prasher BS, et al Scrub typhus in Himalayas Emerg Infect Dis. 2006;12(10):1590–1592
3. Kim DM, Won KJ, Park CY, Yu KD, Kim HS, Yang TY, et al Distribution of eschars on the body of scrub typhus patients: A prospective study Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2007;76(5):806–809
4. Kawamura A Jr, Tanaka H. Rickettsiosis in Japan Jpn J Exp Med. 1988;58(4):169–184
5. Mathai E, Rolain JM, Verghese GM, Abraham OC, Mathai D, Mathai M, et al Outbreak of scrub typhus in southern India during the cooler months Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003;990:359–364
6. Chrispal A, Boorugu H, Gopinath KG, Prakash JA, Chandy S, Abraham OC, et al Scrub typhus: an unrecognized threat in South India - clinical profile and predictors of mortality Trop Doct. 2010;40(3):129–133
7. Saha B, Chatterji S, Mitra K, Ghosh S, Naskar A, Ghosh MK, et al Socio-demographic and clinico-epidemiological study of scrub typhus in two tertiary care hospitals of Kolkata J Assoc Physicians India. 2018;66(5):22–25
8. Takhar RP, Bunkar ML, Arya S, Mirdha N, Mohd A. Scrub typhus: A prospective, observational study during an outbreak in Rajasthan, India Natl Med J India. 2017;30:69–72
9. Pathania M, Amisha, Malik P, Rathaur VK. Scrub typhus: Overview of demographic variables, clinical profile, and diagnostic issues in the sub-Himalayan region of India and its comparison to other Indian and Asian studies J Family Med Prim Care. 2019;8(3):1189–1195
10. Gautam R, Parajuli K, Sherchand JB. Epidemiology, risk factors and seasonal variation of scrub typhus fever in central Nepal Trop Med Infect Dis. 2019;4(1):27
11. Peesapati N, LR, SS, Pv S. Clinical manifestations and complications of scrub typhus: A hospital-based study from north Andhra J Assoc Physicians India. 2019;67(3):22–24
12. Attur RP, Kuppasamy S, Bairy M, Nagaraju SP, Pammidi NR, Kamath V, et al Acute kidney injury in scrub typhus Clin Exp Nephrol. 2013;17(5):725–729
13. Balaji J, Punitha P, Ramesh Babu B, Kumaravel KS. A study on clinical profile, complications and outcome of scrub typhus in south Indian in children Int J Contemp Pediatr. 2017;4(3):848–852

Publisher’s note

The Publisher of the Journal remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


Scrub typhus; Epidemiology; Eschar mark; Multiple organ dysfunction syndrome

© 2023 Journal of Acute Disease | Published by Wolters Kluwer – Medknow