Brill-Zinsser disease, the relapsing form of epidemic typhus, typically occurs in a susceptible host years or decades after the primary infection; however, the mechanisms of reactivation and the cellular reservoir during latency are poorly understood. Herein we describe a murine model for Brill-Zinsser disease, and use PCR and cell culture to show transient rickettsemia in mice treated with dexamethasone >3 months after clinical recovery from the primary infection. Treatment of similarly infected mice with cyclosporine failed to produce recrudescent bacteremia. Therapy with doxycycline for the primary infection prevented recrudescent bacteremia in most of these mice following treatment with dexamethasone. Rickettsia prowazekii (the etiologic agent of epidemic typhus) was detected by PCR, cell culture, and immunostaining methods in murine adipose tissue, but not in liver, spleen, lung, or central nervous system tissues of mice 4 months after recovery from the primary infection. The lungs of dexamethasone-treated mice showed impaired expression of β-defensin transcripts that may be involved in the pathogenesis of pulmonary lesions. In vitro, R. prowazekii rickettsiae infected and replicated in the murine adipocyte cell line 3T3-L1. Collectively these data suggest a role for adipose tissue as a potential reservoir for dormant infections with R. prowazekii.