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Scrub typhus group (STG), typhus group (TG), and spotted fever group (SFG) rickettsiae are pathogens distributed worldwide and are important causes of febrile illnesses in southeast Asia. The levels of rickettsioses burden and distribution in Thai communities are still unclear. Nonspecific symptoms, limit diagnostic capacity and underdiagnoses contribute to the absence of clarity. The objective of this study was to determine the nationwide IgG seroprevalence of STG, TG, and SFG by ELISA in repository sera from the Royal Thai Army recruits collected during 2007–2008 and 2012 to estimate rickettsiae exposure in young Thai men to better understand rickettsiae exposure distribution in the Thai population. IgG seroprevalence of STG, Orientia tsutsugamushi; TG, Rickettsia typhi; and SFG, R. rickettsii was 12.4%, 6.8%, and 3.3% in 2007–2008 and 31.8%, 4.2%, and 4.5% in 2012, respectively. The STG had the highest seroprevalence of Rickettsia assessed, with the highest regional seroprevalence found in southern Thailand. The STG seroprevalence changed significantly from 2007 to 2008 (P value < 0.05), which corresponds with morbidity rate of scrub typhus from the last decade in Thailand. We were unable to determine the causality for seroprevalence changes between the two periods due to the limitation in sample numbers for intervening years and limited information available for archived specimens. Additional research would be required to determine agency. However, study results do confirm Rickettsia endemicity in Thailand lends weight to reports of increasing STG seroprevalence. It also corroborates the need to raise rickettsial disease awareness and educate the general public in prevention measures.
Financial support: This work was funded by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division (AFHSD), Global Emerging Infections Surveillance (GEIS) Branch, Silver Spring, MD, and Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Fort Belvoir, VA.
Disclaimer: Material has been reviewed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. There is no objection to its presentation and/or publication. The opinions or assertions contained herein are the private views of the author, and are not to be construed as official, or as reflecting true views of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.
Authors’ addresses: Siriphan Gonwong, Carl J. Mason, Thippawan Chuenchitra, Patchariya Khanijou, Dilara Islam, Nattaya Ruamsap, Khunakorn Kana, Sutchana Tabprasit, Brian A. Vesely, Samandra T. Demons, Norman C. Waters, Brett E. Swierczewski, John M. Crawford, and James W. Jones, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangkok, Thailand, E-mails: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.