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      In vitro Synergism between Chloroquine and Antibiotics against Orientia tsutsugamushi

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          To investigate whether chloroquine enhances the effect of antibiotics against Orientia tsutsugamushi, the causative organism of scrub typhus, we compared the effect of antibiotics in combination with chloroquine with the effect of antibiotics alone in vitro.

          Materials and Methods

          The Boryong or AFSC-4 strain was inoculated into ECV304 cells, and incubated in medium containing doxycycline (4 µg/mL), rifampin (4 µg/mL), azithromycin (0.5 µg/mL), chloroquine (1 µg/mL), and each of these antibiotics in combination with chloroquine for 7 d. Immunofluorescence (IF) staining for O. tsutsugamushi was performed 4 hr and 7 d after inoculation of the bacteria, and IF-positive foci were enumerated.


          Chloroquine inhibited the growth of O. tsutsugamushi by 15.5%. In combination with chloroquine, the antimicrobial effects increased by 4.4% for doxycycline (a 92.9% reduction of bacterial numbers for doxycycline versus a 97.3% reduction for doxycycline plus chloroquine), 4.6% for rifampin (90.0% versus 94.6%), and 8.3% for azithromycin (86.9% versus 95.2%). The antimicrobial effect of the antibiotics alone was significantly different compared to the combined effect of antibiotics and chloroquine (Wilcoxon signed-rank test, P = 0.001).


          The combined use of chloroquine with an antibiotic for the treatment of O. tsutsugamushi infections may be useful for increasing the efficacy of the antibiotics.

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          Most cited references 30

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          Scrub typhus infections poorly responsive to antibiotics in northern Thailand.

          Rickettsia tsutsugamushi, the aetiological agent of scrub typhus, is common in Asia and readily infects visitors to areas where disease transmission occurs. Rapid defervescence after antibiotic treatment is so characteristic that it is used as a diagnostic test for R tsutsugamushi infection. Reports from local physicians that patients with scrub typhus in Chiangrai, northern Thailand responded badly to appropriate antibiotic therapy prompted us to do a prospective clinical evaluation and antibiotic susceptibility testing of human rickettsial isolates. The clinical response to doxycycline treatment in patients with early, mild scrub typhus in northern Thailand was compared with the results of treatment in Mae Sod, western Thailand. Prototype and naturally occurring strains of R tsutsugamushi were tested for susceptibility to chloramphenicol and doxycycline in mice and in cell culture. By the third day of treatment, fever had cleared in all seven patients from Mae Sod, but in only five of the 12 (40%) from Chiangrai (p < 0.01). Median fever clearance time in Chiangrai (80 h; range 15-190) was significantly longer than in Mae Sod (30 h; range 4-58; p < 0.005). Conjunctival suffusion resolved significantly more slowly in Chiangrai (p < 0.05). Antibiotics prevented death in mice infected by Chiangrai strains of R tsutsugamushi less often than after infection by the prototype strain (p < 0.05). Only one of three Chiangrai strains tested in cell culture was fully susceptible to doxycycline. Chloramphenicol-resistant and doxycycline-resistant strains of R tsutsugamushi occur in Chiangrai, Thailand. This is the first evidence of naturally occurring antimicrobial resistance in the genus Rickettsia.
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            Treatment of Q fever endocarditis: comparison of 2 regimens containing doxycycline and ofloxacin or hydroxychloroquine.

            Q fever endocarditis, caused by Coxiella burnetii, is fatal in 25% to 60% of patients. Currently, treatment with a long-term tetracycline and quinolone regimen for at least 4 years is recommended, although relapses are frequent. Between January 1987 and December 1997, the reference treatment of Q fever endocarditis was compared with one of doxycycline and hydroxychloroquine sulfate. Patients were treated by conventional therapy until May 1991 and then by the new regimen. Microimmunofluorescence was used for antibody-level determination for diagnosis and follow-up. Thirty-five patients were included in the study, 26 males and 9 females. Of 14 patients treated with a doxycycline and quinolone combination, 1 died, 7 relapsed (3 were re-treated and 4 switched to the new regimen), 1 is still being treated, and 5 were considered cured using this regimen only. The mean duration of therapy for cure in this group was 55 months (median, 60 months). Twenty-one patients received the doxycycline and hydroxychloroquine regimen: 1 patient died of a surgical complication, 2 are still being treated, 17 were cured, and 1 is currently being evaluated. Two patients treated for 12 months but none of the patients treated for longer than 18 months relapsed. The mean duration of treatment in this group was 31 months (median, 26 months). No significant differences were observed between the 2 regimens in terms of death, valve surgery, or tolerance. The mortality rate for both regimens in this study was 5%. Prescription of the doxycycline and hydroxychloroquine combination for at least 18 months allows shortening of the duration of therapy and reduction in the number of relapses.
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              Doxycycline versus azithromycin for treatment of leptospirosis and scrub typhus.

              Leptospirosis and scrub typhus are important causes of acute fever in Southeast Asia. Options for empirical therapy include doxycycline and azithromycin, but it is unclear whether their efficacies are equivalent. We conducted a multicenter, open, randomized controlled trial with adult patients presenting with acute fever (<15 days), without an obvious focus of infection, at four hospitals in Thailand between July 2003 and January 2005. Patients were randomly allocated to receive either a 7-day course of doxycycline or a 3-day course of azithromycin. The cure rate, fever clearance time, and adverse drug events were compared between the two study groups. A total of 296 patients were enrolled in the study. The cause of acute fever was determined for 151 patients (51%): 69 patients (23.3%) had leptospirosis; 57 patients (19.3%) had scrub typhus; 14 patients (4.7%) had murine typhus; and 11 patients (3.7%) had evidence of both leptospirosis and a rickettsial infection. The efficacy of azithromycin was not inferior to that of doxycycline for the treatment of both leptospirosis and scrub typhus, with comparable fever clearance times in the two treatment arms. Adverse events occurred more frequently in the doxycycline group than in the azithromycin group (27.6% and 10.6%, respectively; P = 0.02). In conclusion, doxycycline is an affordable and effective choice for the treatment of both leptospirosis and scrub typhus. Azithromycin was better tolerated than doxycycline but is more expensive and less readily available.

                Author and article information

                Infect Chemother
                Infect Chemother
                Infection & Chemotherapy
                The Korean Society of Infectious Diseases and Korean Society for Chemotherapy
                September 2014
                24 September 2014
                : 46
                : 3
                : 182-188
                Department of Internal Medicine, Inha University School of Medicine, Incheon, Korea.
                Author notes
                Corresponding Author: Moon-Hyun Chung. Department of Internal Medicine, Inha University School of Medicine, 27 Inhang-ro, Jung-gu, Incheon 400-712, Korea. Tel: +82-32-890-2202, Fax: +82-32-882-6578, mhchungid@
                Alternate Corresponding Author: Dongwook Son. PHclinic, 394 Yongsin-ro, Sangrok-gu, Ansan 426-180, Korea. Tel: +82-31-505-2222, Fax: +82-70-4741-7179, klineroa@

                These two authors contributed equally to this work.

                Copyright © 2014 by The Korean Society of Infectious Diseases and Korean Society for Chemotherapy

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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