Gaps and inconsistencies in the current knowledge and implementation of biosafety and biosecurity practices for rickettsial pathogens

BMC Infect Dis. 2024 Feb 29;24(1):268. doi: 10.1186/s12879-024-09151-0.


Introduction: Rickettsia spp. and Orientia spp. are the causes of neglected infections that can lead to severe febrile and systemic illnesses in humans. Implementing proper biosafety practices when handling these pathogens is crucial to ensure a safe and sustainable work environment. It is essential to assess the current knowledge and identify any potential gaps to develop effective measures that minimise the risk of exposure to these pathogens. By doing so, we can establish a comprehensive framework that promotes safety, mitigates hazards, and safeguards the well-being of personnel and the surrounding community.

Methods and results: This review aimed to synthesise and determine the evidence base for biosafety precautions for Rickettsia spp. and Orientia spp. pathogens. Enhancing our understanding of the relative infectious risk associated with different strains of Rickettsia and Orientia spp. requires identifying the infectious dose of these pathogens that can cause human disease. The application of risk groups for Rickettsia and Orientia spp. is inconsistent across jurisdictions. There is also incomplete evidence regarding decontamination methods for these pathogens. With regards to Orientia spp. most of the available information is derived from experiments conducted with Rickettsia spp.

Conclusions: Rickettsia and Orientia spp. are neglected diseases, as demonstrated by the lack of evidence-based and specific biosafety information about these pathogens. In the case of Orientia spp., most of the available information is derived from Rickettsia spp., which may not be appropriate and overstate the risks of working with this pathogen. The advent of effective antibiotic therapy and a better understanding of the true hazards and risks associated with pathogen manipulation should inform decisions, allowing a sustainable and safe work environment.

Keywords: Orientia spp.; Orientia tsutsugamushi; Rickettsia spp.; Biosafety; Scrub typhus; Spotted fever.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biosecurity
  • Containment of Biohazards
  • Humans
  • Orientia tsutsugamushi*
  • Rickettsia*
  • Scrub Typhus*