Postexposure treatment with doxycycline for the prevention of tick-borne relapsing fever

Tal Hasin, Nadav Davidovitch, Regev Cohen, Tsachi Dagan, Ayal Romem, Nadav Orr, Eyal Klement, Nir Lubezky, Raid Kayouf, Tamar Sela, Nathan Keller, Estela Derazne, Tamar Halperin, Miri Yavzori, Itamar Grotto, Dani Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Background: Tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF) is an acute febrile illness. In Israel, TBRF is caused by Borrelia persica and is transmitted by Ornithodoros tholozani ticks. We examined the safety and efficacy of postexposure treatment to prevent TBRF. Methods: In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 93 healthy subjects with suspected tick exposure (52 with signs of tick bites and 41 close contacts - those without signs but with a similar risk of contact with ticks) were randomly assigned to receive either doxycycline (Dexxon, in a dose of 200 mg the first day and then 100 mg per day for four days) or placebo after presumed exposure to TBRF. Cases of TBRF were defined by fever and a positive blood smear. Serologic analysis for cross-reactivity to Borrelia burgdorferi and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the borrelia glpQ gene were also performed. Results: After randomization, 47 subjects (26 with signs of tick bites and 21 close contacts) received doxycycline. Forty-six other subjects (26 with signs of tick bites and 20 close contacts) received placebo. All 10 cases of TBRF identified by a positive blood smear were in the placebo group of subjects with signs of a tick bite (P<0.001). These findings suggested a 100 percent efficacy of preemptive treatment (95 percent confidence interval, 46 to 100 percent). PCR for the borrelia glpQ gene was negative at baseline for all subjects and subsequently positive in all subjects with fever and a positive blood smear. Seroconversion was detected in eight of nine cases of TBRF. PCR and serum samples were negative for all of the other subjects tested. No major treatment-associated adverse effects were identified. Conclusions: Treatment with doxycycline is safe and efficacious in preventing TBRF after suspected exposure to ticks in a high-risk environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-155
Number of pages8
JournalNew England Journal of Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 13 Jul 2006
Externally publishedYes


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