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Acta Virol. 2002;46(4):193-210.

Q fever--still a query and underestimated infectious disease.

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Institute of Virology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Dúbravská cesta 9, 845 05 Bratislava, Slovak Republic.


Coxiella burnetii (C.b.) is a strictly intracellular, Gram-negative bacterium. It causes Q fever in humans and animals worldwide. The animal Q fever is sometimes designated "coxiellosis". This infection has many different reservoirs including arthropods, birds and mammals. Domestic animals and pets, are the most frequent source of human infections. Q fever may appear basically in two forms, acute and chronic (persistent). The latter form of Q fever in animals is characteristic by shedding C.b. into the environment during parturition or abortion. Human Q fever results usually from inhalation of contaminated aerosols originating mostly from tissue and body fluids of infected animals. Q fever may appear in humans either in an acute form accompanied mainly by fever (pneumonia, flu-like disease, hepatitis) or in a chronic form (mainly endocarditis). Diagnosis of Q fever is based on isolation of the agent in cell culture, its direct detection, namely by PCR, and serology. Detection of high phase II antibodies titers 1-3 weeks after the onset of symptoms and identification of IgM antibodies are indicative to acute infection. High phase I IgG antibody titers >800 as revealed by microimmunofluorescence offer evidence of chronic C.b. infection. For acute Q fever, a two-weeks-treatment with doxycycline is recommended as the first-line therapy. In the case of Q fever endocarditis a long-term combined antibiotic therapy is necessary to prevent relapses. Application of Q fever vaccines containing or prepared from phase I C.b. corpuscles should be considered at least for professionally exposed groups of the population. Infections caused by C.b. are spread worldwide and may pose serious and often underestimated health problems in human but also in veterinary medicine. Though during the last decades substantial progress in investigation of C.b. has been achieved and many data concerning this pathogen has been accumulated, some questions, namely those related to the pathogenesis of the disease, remain open.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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