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Volume 49, Number 6, December 2016

Associated factors and clinical implications of serum aminotransferase elevation in scrub typhus 

Tung-Hung Su, Chun-Jen Liu, Pei-Yun Shu, Yang-Hsien Fu, Chi-Hsien Chang, Ping Jao, Jia-Horng Kao


Corresponding author:

Jia-Horng Kao 


Background and purpose: 

Timely diagnosis and prompt treatment can reduce the complications of scrub typhus. It is thus important to find easy laboratory tests to help in the diagnosis, especially in patients without eschar at initial presentation. Because serum aminotransferase elevation is common in scrub typhus, its associated factors and clinical implications need further investigations. 



We conducted a retrospective study in Kinmen, Taiwan, to collect clinically suspected scrub typhus patients notified to Taiwan Centers for Disease Control for confirmation during 2005–2010. Scrub typhus was diagnosed and Orientia tsutsugamushi was genotyped by serological or molecular assays. The laboratory data and clinical information were recorded for analysis. 



Overall, 344 suspected scrub typhus patients were reported to Taiwan Centers for Disease Control and 288 of them were certified scrub typhus. Scrub typhus patients had significantly more thrombocytopenia, serum aminotransferase elevation (76% vs. 54%, p = 0.001), higher frequency of fever, eschar, and lymphadenopathy, compared with nontyphus patients. Hepatic dysfunction in scrub typhus was associated with older age, longer fever duration, and absence of lymphadenopathy, but seemed to be unrelated to the rickettsial genotypes. Multivariate analysis showed that serum aminotransferase elevation (odds ratio: 3.75; p = 0.003; 95% confidence interval: 1.56–9.01) independently predicted scrub typhus. Furthermore, in suspected scrub typhus patients without eschar, 92% of true typhus patients had serum aminotransferase elevation compared with the nontyphus ones (odds ratio: 6.47; p = 0.028, 95% confidence interval: 1.23–34.11). 



Hepatic dysfunction in scrub typhus patients is associated with older age, longer fever duration, and absence of lymphadenopathy. Serum aminotransferase elevation can aid in the diagnosis of scrub typhus, especially in suspected patients without eschar. 


Key words:

liver function tests, Orientia tsutsugamushi, rickettsia