Louse-borne relapsing fever appears again in Europe




The reemergence of an early-20th-century fever is an example of how increased migration from war-torn and resource-poor countries has created new routes for the spread of vectorborne diseases.

Dr. Alessandra Ciervo

Dr. Alessandra Ciervo

Louse-borne relapsing fever (LBRF) caused by the bacterium Borrelia recurrentis was a major public health problem in Eastern Europe and Northern Africa during World Wars I and II. A new study published online in Emerging Infectious Diseases reveals that several cases of LBRF have been reported in multiple European nations among asylum seekers from Eritrea (Emerg Infect Dis. 2016 Jan. 22[1]. doi: 10.3201/eid2201.151580).

Poor living conditions, famine, war, and refugee camps are major risk factors for epidemics of LBRF, writes Dr. Alessandra Ciervo of the department of infectious, parasitic and immune-mediated diseases at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità in Rome. Indeed, recent cases of LBRF in the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany occurred in asylum seekers who had been in refugee camps in Libya or Italy. Dr. Ciervo and her coauthors report on three sample LBRF cases among patients in Italy who migrated from Somalia after traveling in several countries in Africa and crossing the Mediterranean.

The researchers conclude that, because the cases suggest that more migrants and refugees are infected, LBRF should be considered an emerging disease among migrants and refugees, and diagnostic suspicion of LBRF should lead to early diagnosis among refugees from the Horn of Africa and in persons in migrant camps.

To read the entire research letter, click here.

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