Febrile rhabdomyolysis of unknown origin in refugees coming from West Africa through the Mediterranean

Silvia Odolini, Federico Gobbi, Lorenzo Zammarchi, Simona Migliore, Paola Mencarini, Marco Vecchia, Nicoletta di Lauria, Simona Schivazappa, Tony Sabatini, Leonardo Chianura, Elisa Vanino, Daniela Piacentini, Paola Zanotti, Anna Bussi, Alessandro Bartoloni, Zeno Bisoffi, Francesco Castelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives Cases of undiagnosed severe febrile rhabdomyolysis in refugees coming from West Africa, mainly from Nigeria, has been observed since May 2014. The aim of this study was to describe this phenomenon. Methods This was a multicentre retrospective observational study of cases of febrile rhabdomyolysis reported from May 2014 to December 2016 in 12 Italian centres. Results A total of 48 cases were observed, mainly in young males. The mean time interval between the day of departure from Libya and symptom onset was 26.2 days. An average 8.3 further days elapsed before medical care was sought. All patients were hospitalized with fever and very intense muscle aches. Creatine phosphokinase, aspartate aminotransferase, and lactate dehydrogenase values were abnormal in all cases. The rhabdomyolysis was ascribed to an infective agent in 16 (33.3%) cases. In the remaining cases, the aetiology was undefined. Four out of seven patients tested had sickle cell trait. No alcohol abuse or drug intake was reported, apart from a single reported case of khat ingestion. Conclusions The long incubation period does not support a mechanical cause of rhabdomyolysis. Furthermore, viral infections such as those caused by coxsackievirus are rarely associated with such a severe clinical presentation. It is hypothesized that other predisposing conditions like genetic factors, unknown infections, or unreported non-conventional remedies may be involved. Targeted surveillance of rhabdomyolysis cases is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-80
Number of pages4
JournalInternational Journal of Infectious Diseases
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Creatine kinase
  • Fever
  • Nigeria
  • Refugees
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • West Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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