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Abstract Background Murine typhus, or infection with Rickettsia typhi, is a global but neglected disease without randomized clinical trials to guide antibiotic therapy. Methods A prospective, open, randomized trial was conducted in nonpregnant, consenting inpatient adults with rapid diagnostic test evidence of uncomplicated murine typhus at 2 hospitals in Vientiane, Laos. Patients were randomized to 7 days (D7) or 3 days (D3) of oral doxycycline or 3 days of oral azithromycin (A3). Primary outcome measures were fever clearance time and frequencies of treatment failure and relapse. Results Between 2004 and 2009, the study enrolled 216 patients (72 per arm); 158 (73.2%) had serology/polymerase chain reaction (PCR)–confirmed murine typhus, and 52 (24.1%) were R. typhi PCR positive. The risk of treatment failure was greater for regimen A3 (22.5%; 16 of 71 patients) than for D3 (4.2%; 3 of 71) or D7 (1.4%; 1 of 71) (P < .001). Among R. typhi PCR–positive patients, the area under the time-temperature curve and the fever clearance time were significantly higher for A3 than for D3 (1.8- and 1.9-fold higher, respectively; P = .005) and D7 (1.5- and 1.6-fold higher; P = .02). No patients returned with PCR-confirmed R. typhi relapse. Conclusion In Lao adults, azithromycin is inferior to doxycycline as oral therapy for uncomplicated murine typhus. For doxycycline, 3- and 7-day regimens have similar efficacy. Azithromycin use in murine typhus should be reconsidered. Investigation of genomic and phenotypic markers of R. typhi azithromycin resistance is needed. Clinical Trial Registration ISRCTN47812566.

Original publication




Journal article


Clinical Infectious Diseases


Oxford University Press (OUP)

Publication Date





738 - 747