Orientia tsutsugamushi

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Orientia tsutsugamushi.JPG
Orientia tsutsugamushi
Scientific classification
Domain: Bacteria
Phylum: Proteobacteria
Class: Alphaproteobacteria
Order: Rickettsiales
Family: Rickettsiaceae
Genus: Orientia
Species: O. tsutsugamushi
Binomial name
Orientia tsutsugamushi
(Haruo Hayashi 1920) (Norio Ogata 1929)[1] Tamura et al. 1995

Orientia tsutsugamushi (from Japanese tsutsuga "illness" and mushi "insect") is the causative organism of scrub typhus,[2] and the natural vector and reservoir is probably trombiculid mites (genus Leptotrombidium).[3][4] The organism is an obligate intracellular pathogen, which must infect eukaryotic cells to multiply. The envelope is similar to that of Gram-negative bacteria, but it is not easily stained with Gram stain and the Gimenez stain is preferred. A large number of serotypes are described: these include Karp (which accounts for about 50% of all infections),[4] Gilliam (25%),[4] Kato (less than 10%),[4] and Kawasaki,[5] but enormous variability exists, with eight serotypes being reported in a single field in Malaysia,[6] and many more serotypes continue to be reported.[7][8][9] Genetic methods have revealed even greater complexity than had been previously described (for example, Gilliam is further divided into Gilliam and JG types). Infection with one serotype does not confer immunity to other serotypes (no crossimmunity). Repeated infection in the same individual is, therefore, possible, and this complicates vaccine design.


The bacterium was initially categorised in the genus Rickettsia,[2] but is now classed in a separate genus, Orientia, which it shares with the recently described species Orientia chuto.[10][11]

It is 0.5 µm wide and 1.2 to 3.0 µm long, and is an obligatory intracellular organism that can only be cultured in cell monolayers. The organism is highly virulent and should only be handled in a laboratory with biosafety level 3 facilities.[12]

Antimicrobial therapy[edit]

O. tsutsugamushi is sensitive in vitro to doxycycline, rifampicin, and azithromycin. It is innately resistant to all β-lactam antibiotics (for example, penicillin) because it lacks a classical peptidoglycan cell wall.[13] Aminoglycosides (for example, gentamicin) are also ineffective in human infection because the organism is intracellular, and aminoglycosides do not penetrate intracellularly.


No licensed scrub typhus vaccines are currently available. Enormous antigenic variation in Orientia tsutsugamushi strains is now known, and immunity to one strain does not confer immunity to another. Any scrub typhus vaccine should give protection to all the strains present locally, to give an acceptable level of protection. A vaccine developed for one locality may not be protective in another locality, because of antigenic variation. This complexity continues to hamper efforts to produce a viable vaccine.


  1. ^ Valbuena G, Walker DH. "Approaches to vaccines against Orientia tsutsugamushi". Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2: 170. doi:10.3389/fcimb.2012.00170. PMC 3539663Freely accessible. PMID 23316486. 
  2. ^ a b Watt G, Parola P (October 2003). "Scrub typhus and tropical rickettsioses". Curr Opin Infect Dis. 16 (5): 429–36. doi:10.1097/00001432-200310000-00009. PMID 14501995. 
  3. ^ Traub R, Wisseman CL Jr (1974). "The ecology of chigger-borne rickettsiosis (scrub typhus)". J Med Entomol. 11 (3): 237–303. doi:10.1093/jmedent/11.3.237. PMID 4212400. 
  4. ^ a b c d Kelly DJ, Fuerst PA, Ching WM, Richards AL (2009). "Scrub typhus: The geographic distribution of phenotypic and genotypic variants of Orientia tsutsugamushi". Clin Infect Dis. 48 (s3): S203–30. doi:10.1086/596576. PMID 19220144. 
  5. ^ Yamamoto S, Kawabata N, Tamura A, et al. (1986). "Immunological properties of Rickettsia tsutsugamushi, Kawasaki strain, isolated from a patient in Kyushu". Microbiol Immunol. 30 (7): 611–20. doi:10.1111/j.1348-0421.1986.tb02988.x. PMID 3095612. 
  6. ^ Shirai A, Tanskul PL, Andre RG, et al. (1981). "Rickettsia tsutsugamushi strains found in chiggers collected in Thailand". Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health. 12 (1): 1–6. PMID 6789455. 
  7. ^ Kang JS, Chang WH (1999). "Antigenic relationship among the eight prototype and new serotype strains of Orientia tsutsugamushi revealed by monoclonal antibodies". Microbiol Immunol. 43 (3): 229–34. doi:10.1111/j.1348-0421.1999.tb02397.x. PMID 10338191. 
  8. ^ Bakshi D, Singhal P, Mahajan SK, Subramaniam P, Tuteja U, Batra HV (2007). "Development of a real-time PCR assay for the diagnosis of scrub typhus cases in India and evidence of the prevalence of new genotype of O. tsutsugamushi". Acta Trop. 104 (1): 63–71. doi:10.1016/j.actatropica.2007.07.013. PMID 17870041. 
  9. ^ Parola P, Blacksell SD, Phetsouvanh R, et al. (2008). "Genotyping of Orientia tsutsugamushi from Humans with Scrub Typhus, Laos". Emerg Infect Dis. 14 (9): 1483–1485. doi:10.3201/eid1409.071259. PMC 2603112Freely accessible. PMID 18760027. 
  10. ^ Tamura A, Ohashi N, Urakami H, Miyamura S (1995). "Classification of Rickettsia tsutsugamushi in a new genus, Orientia gen. nov., as Orientia tsutsugamushi comb. nov". Int J Syst Bacteriol. 45 (3): 589–591. doi:10.1099/00207713-45-3-589. PMID 8590688. 
  11. ^ Izzard, L (2010). "Isolation of a novel Orientia species (O. chuto sp. nov.) from a patient infected in Dubai". J Clin Microbiol. 48 (12): 4404–4409. doi:10.1128/JCM.01526-10. PMC 3008486Freely accessible. PMID 20926708. 
  12. ^ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1999). "Section VII-E: Rickettsial Agents". Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) (4th ed.). Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 149–53. Retrieved 13 Mar 2009. 
  13. ^ Amano K, Tamura A, Ohashi N, Urakami H, Kaya S, Fukushi K (1987). "Deficiency of peptidoglycan and lipopolysaccharide components in Rickettsia tsutsugamushi". Infect Immun. 55 (9): 2290–2. PMC 260693Freely accessible. PMID 3114150.