A young healthy gardener became febrile with abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea followed by palpable purpura, mostly on the legs and buttocks with associated arthralgia. Dehydration, azotemia and hyponatraemia resolved with fluid replacement. Tests demonstrated acute pancreatitis, hepatitis, thrombocytopenia, microscopic haematuria and proteinuria. He improved with doxycycline, but bipedal pitting oedema and punctate rash involving the soles/hands appeared. Microbiological tests revealed positive IgM and IgG serology for rickettsiae spotted fever. Skin biopsy of the purpura confirmed leucocytoclastic vasculitis, positive for by PCR amplification. Palpable purpura is a rare important manifestation of Mediterranean spotted fever (MSF), due to either secondary leucocytoclastic vasculitis or associated Henoch-Schonlein purpura (HSP), which best explains the distribution of the rash, arthralgia, gastrointestinal symptoms, and microhaematuria not usually seen in infections. Likewise, the patient’s acute pancreatitis may be interpreted as a rare presentation of HSP or a seldom-encountered feature of MSF.
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