NYMC Faculty Publications


Emerging and Re-Emerging Rickettsial Infections

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Rickettsial organisms are a diverse group of obligate intracellular bacteria; all species known to cause human disease are dependent on an arthropod vector and many are considered zoonotic diseases. Typical vectors of rickettsia are fleas, ticks, mites or lice. Humans become infected either when bitten or upon contact of broken skin or mucous membranes by infected secretions from an arthropod vector. The emergence and re-emergence of rickettsial diseases is a serious public health concern in the United States and abroad. Herein, the clinical and pathologic features of rickettsial diseases are described in tandem with the current scientific underpinnings. The histopathology of emerging and re-emerging rickettsiosis with species-specific discussion relating to vector issues and control are explored. Concepts of endemicity are addressed in the context of climate change and its impact on vector and sylvatic reservoirs, underscoring the need for clinical vigilance and broad consideration for encounters with these potentially life threating human pathogens.