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J Infect. 2007 Apr;54(4):313-8. Epub 2006 Dec 4.

Q fever.

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  • 1University of East London, School of Health and Bioscience, Romford Road, Stratford, London, UK. <>


An outbreak of Q fever occurred in Scotland during this summer and was reported in news headlines. Despite these newsworthy headlines, Q fever remains poorly understood. The causative organism, Coxiella burnetii, has a worldwide distribution, with the notable exception of New Zealand. Even with its ubiquitous nature, Q fever is rarely reported. We explore some of the underlying reasons for this apparent under diagnosis together with some of the diagnostic challenges posed by this obligate intracellular pathogen. The host range for this microbe spans arthropods, through to birds and a diverse range of mammals including livestock, companion animals and man. In most, infection remains sub-clinical, however, in some, infection can cause severe and life-threatening complications. Furthermore, possible long-term persistence within those infected, may result in long-term sequelae disassociated from initial risk factors or acute clinical presentation. We review current thinking on C. burnetii, and identify some of our current knowledge gaps.

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