Background: Mediterranean spotted fever (MSF) is an acute febrile, zoonotic disease caused by Rickettsia conorii and transmitted to humans by the brown dogtick Rhipicephalus sanguineus. Nearly four hundred cases are reported every year (mainly from June to September) on the Italian island of Sicily. The aim of the study was to analyze the clinical and laboratory characteristics of patients with MSF and the efficacy of the drugs administered.
Methods: Our study was carried out on 415 children with MSF, during the period January 1997-December 2004, at the "G. Di Cristina" Children's hospital in Palermo, Sicily, Italy. On admission patients' clinical history, physical and laboratory examination and indirect immunofluorescence antibody test (IFAT) for Rickettsia conorii were performed. Diagnosis was considered confirmed if the patients had an MSF diagnostic score greater than or equal to 25 according to the Raoult's scoring system. All patients were treated with chloramphenicol or with macrolides (clarithromycin or azithromycin).
Results: Fever, rash and tache noire were present in 386 (93%), 392 (94.5%) and 263 (63.4%) cases respectively. Eighteen (4.6%) children showed atypical exanthema. Chloramphenicol and newer macrolides all appeared to be effective and safe therapies.
Conclusion: Clinical features of 415 children with MSF were similar to those reported by other authors except for a lower incidence of headache, arthralgia and myalgia and a higher frequency of epato-splenomegaly. Concerning therapy, clarithromycin can be considered a valid alternative therapy to tetracyclines or chloramphenicol especially for children aged < eight years.