Long term persistence of Coxiella burnetii after acute primary Q fever

B. P. Marmion, P. A. Storm, Jonathan Geoffrey Ayres, L. Semendric, R. J. Harris

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    89 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Long-term persistence of C. burnetii in infected animals was established in the 1950s and 60s, but the implications for human Q fever are not fully explored.

    Aim: To compare the prevalence of markers of infection in a cohort of Q fever patients in Australia (up to 5 years after infection) with those in the 1989 Birmingham cohort (12 years after infection).

    Design: Case follow-up study.

    Methods: C. burnetii was tested for by: (i) antibodies to Phase 1 and 2 antigens in the three immunoglobulin classes; (ii) detection of DNA in bone marrow and peripheral blood mononuclear cells by PCR assays directed against several different targets in the genome; and (iii) attempts to isolate coxiellas in cell culture or mice from PCR-positive samples. Amplicon specificity was verified by fluorometric probing and by sequencing. Cross-contamination was excluded by extensive use of non-template controls, and in particular by the use of certain IS1111a target sequences.

    Results: Irrespective of clinical state, both groups remained seropositive, principally exhibiting-medium levels of IgG antibody against C burnetii Phase 2 antigen. C burnetii genomic DNA was detected by PCR in 65% of bone marrow aspirates from Australian patients and similar to88% of Birmingham patients. No coxiella were isolated from PCR positive samples.

    Discussion: We propose a provisional model for persistence. In Q fever without sequelae, the process is largely confined to the bone marrow. In Q fever fatigue syndrome (QFS), it is modulated by the patients immunogenetic back-round to give higher levels of coxiella genomes in bone marrow and increased shedding into the peripheral blood. In Q fever endocarditis, late pregnancy, of during iatrogenic or other immunosuppression, the multiplication cycle is prolonged, and a potential source of live organisms.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)7-20
    Number of pages13
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005




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