What is Recrudescence?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2016
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Recrudescence is the recurrence of a disease after it is thought to be resolved. It classically appears with conditions such as malaria, in which the parasite responsible for the disease can remain present in the blood in low numbers, flaring up again in days, weeks, and sometimes months. This term is very similar to “relapse,” with some people differentiating between the two by scale; a relapse occurs after a long period of symptom-free living, while a recrudescence appears more quickly.

This return of an infection can sometimes be confused with a reinfection. In true recrudescence, the patient usually experiences an infection because the immune system has been weakened over time, allowing the infection to recur. In a reinfection, someone picks up an infectious agent again and experiences a new infection. It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference in an area where an infection is endemic and it is easy for people to pick up new infections.

Malaria recrudescence is a very common problem, thanks to the fact that the responsible parasites are notoriously difficult to eradicate from the body entirely. Over time, they can suppress the immune system, or patients can experience immune suppression as a result of stress, fatigue, or another infection, allowing the parasites to multiply again and contribute to the development of malarial symptoms. The intensity of the recurrence can vary, depending on the patient and the situation.


When a recrudescence appears, it is treated like the primary infection, with medications being administered to address the infection, hopefully eradicate the infectious agent, and deal with symptoms which come up as a result of the infection. With conditions like malaria, the patient may also be put on a prophylactic medication regimen once the flareup resolves, with the goal of preventing a recurrence in the future. In regions where diseases like malaria are endemic, residents and visitors may also be encouraged to stay on prophylactic medication, if possible, so that they are not infected in the first place.

People may also refer to “recrudescence” in the sense of any sort of return or flaring up, even when it is not medical in nature. The word may be used in a way which is linked with unpleasant associations; in other words, the return of the circus might not be called a recrudescence because it is viewed as a fun event, while a return of militant forces to a war zone might be referred to as such because it is perceived as a negative thing.


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Post 8

This is a little off topic, but a good friend of mine used to play drums in a band called recrudescence. They were a pretty hardcore metal band and the name seemed to fit their sound.

Their are a lot of metal bands that try to pick their name based on a really violent and gory image. You end up with a lot of medical terms. Surprisingly, they were the first band I had ever hear use recrudescence. They broke up a few years ago so it is back on the market if any metal heads out there want to use it.

Post 7

I remember from my Latin classes that 'crudescere' means to deteriorate and 're' of course means 'to repeat,' 'to happen again.' So it's really easy to infer the meaning of recrudescence when you know these two.

I'm so glad to have studied Latin because it really helps me figure out what various medical terms mean, as well as English words in general. There was no way that I could guess the meaning of 'recrudescence' had I not taken Latin.

Post 6

@popcorn-- Like the article mentioned, I think cancer that comes back would be called a relapse, not a recrudescence. As far as I know, most cancer patients who are treated and completely free of cancer cells generally remain that way for several years. That's definitely the case for breast cancer too. Some people live cancer free for ten, fifteen or even twenty years until it reappears.

This is a really long period of time, so it doesn't fit the definition of recrudescence. I think there is also a strong suggestion that when an illness recrudesces, it actually was present all along but we weren't aware of it. So there might be a disappearance of the symptoms, but the actual disease causing agent is still there. It was not entirely wiped out, just like with the malaria example.

Post 5

We also use the term recrudescence in our biology courses to refer to a disease or condition that we thought was wiped out among a population that renewed itself.

For example, if a school's students are treated for head lice and we think it's gone, only to see it reappear in a couple of weeks, we say that it's a recrudescence of head lice in that school.

Post 4

Are there any other kind of infections or disease out there that are often recrudescent?

I wonder if certain types of cancer could be considered recrudescent because of how many times people feel they are in the clear and symptom free, and yet still suffer from sudden down turns in their health. My aunt had breast cancer and the doctor's told her three separate times that she was in remission, and yet it always came back.

I suppose that being symptom free isn't really what it is cracked up to be when you have a severe disease or persistent virus. I hate the thought of something resting dormant in you waiting for a chance to strike again.

Post 3

When we were traveling in South East Asia there were some areas that had a lot of trouble with malaria. We were lucky enough to to be able to afford to take the antimalarial medicine Primaquine before we started our trip.

There are actually numerous drugs that you can take that can help prevent malaria, as dealing with recrudescence is pretty horrible. We were talking to someone who works at a medical clinic in Cambodia and does some volunteer work with the poorer villages. Apparently a lot of the kids that get malaria have a lot of trouble kicking it because it really does cling to the system.

Post 2

@JaneAir - I have to say, I don't feel bad for your friend. It was kind of her own fault, after all. However, I do feel bad for people that experience malaria recrudescence.

It seems like for malaria, it's hard to prevent recrudescence. Short of taking a prophylactic medication, there isn't much you can do. And I imagine a lot of people who live in parts of the world where malaria is common can't necessarily afford all that medication!

Post 1

Interesting. It seems like the difference between recrudescence and reinfection is that in recrudescence, the infection was never truly gone.

I think one of my friend experienced this recently. She was taking a course of antibiotics for strep throat. Well, she decided to stop taking the antibiotics before she was supposed to because she felt better. I told her this was a bad idea, but she figured it would be OK.

She came down with strep again about a week later. I firmly believe this is because the original infection wasn't truly gone. I think since she stopped taking her medicine early, there was still strep in her system.

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