Scrub typhus: the geographic distribution of phenotypic and genotypic variants of Orientia tsutsugamushi

Clin Infect Dis. 2009 Mar 15;48 Suppl 3:S203-30. doi: 10.1086/596576.


Orientia tsutsugamushi is the etiological agent of scrub typhus, an acute, mite-borne, febrile illness that occurs in the Asia-Pacific region. Historically, strain characterization used serological analysis and revealed dramatic antigenic diversity. Eyeing a recommendation of potential vaccine candidates for broad protection, we review geographic diversity and serological and DNA prevalences. DNA analysis together with immunological analysis suggest that the prototype Karp strain and closely related strains are the most common throughout the region of endemicity. According to serological analysis, approximately 50% of isolates are seroreactive to Karp antisera, and approximately one-quarter of isolates are seroreactive to antisera against the prototype Gilliam strain. Molecular methods reveal greater diversity. By molecular methods, strains phylogenetically similar to Karp make up approximately 40% of all genotyped isolates, followed by the JG genotype group (Japan strains serotypically similar to the Gilliam strain but genetically non-Gilliam; 18% of all genotyped isolates). Three other genotype groups (Kato-related, Kawasaki-like, and TA763-like) each represent approximately 10% of genotyped isolates. Strains genetically similar to the Gilliam strain make up only 5% of isolates. Strains from these groups should be included in any potential vaccine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigenic Variation*
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Drug Design
  • Genotype
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Orientia tsutsugamushi* / classification
  • Orientia tsutsugamushi* / genetics
  • Orientia tsutsugamushi* / immunology
  • Orientia tsutsugamushi* / isolation & purification
  • Phenotype
  • Phylogeny
  • Prevalence
  • Scrub Typhus / epidemiology*
  • Scrub Typhus / microbiology*


  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • DNA, Bacterial