DOI: 10.1093/cid/ciad736 ISSN: 1058-4838

Systematic Review: Clinical Features, Antimicrobial Treatment, and Outcomes of Human Tularemia, 1993–2023

Christina A Nelson, Jessica Winberg, Taylor D Bostic, K Meryl Davis, Shannon Fleck-Derderian
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Microbiology (medical)



Francisella tularensis, the causative agent of tularemia, is endemic throughout the Northern Hemisphere and requires as few as 10 organisms to cause disease, making this potential bioterrorism agent one of the most infectious bacterial pathogens known. Aminoglycosides, tetracyclines, and, more recently, fluoroquinolones are used for treatment of tularemia; however, data on the relative effectiveness of these and other antimicrobial classes are limited.


Nine databases, including Medline, Global Health, and Embase, were systematically searched for articles containing terms related to tularemia. Articles with case-level data on tularemia diagnosis, antimicrobial treatment, and patient outcome were included. Patient demographics, clinical findings, antimicrobial administration, and outcome (eg, intubation, fatality) were abstracted using a standardized form.


Of the 8878 publications identified and screened, 410 articles describing 870 cases from 1993 to 2023 met inclusion criteria. Cases were reported from 35 countries; more than half were from the United States, Turkey, or Spain. The most common clinical forms were ulceroglandular, oropharyngeal, glandular, and pneumonic disease. Among patients treated with aminoglycosides (n = 452 [52%]), fluoroquinolones (n = 339 [39%]), or tetracyclines (n = 419 [48%]), the fatality rate was 0.7%, 0.9%, and 1.2%, respectively. Patients with pneumonic disease who received ciprofloxacin had no fatalities and the lowest rates of thoracentesis/pleural effusion drainage and intubation compared to those who received aminoglycosides and tetracyclines.


Aminoglycosides, fluoroquinolones, and tetracyclines are effective antimicrobials for treatment of tularemia, regardless of clinical manifestation. For pneumonic disease specifically, ciprofloxacin may have slight advantages compared to other antimicrobials.

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