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Vet Res. 2007 Nov-Dec;38(6):849-60. Epub 2007 Sep 20.

Coxiella burnetii shedding by dairy cows.

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Unit of Animal Health Management, UMR 708, Veterinary School, INRA, BP 40706, 44307, Nantes Cedex 03, France.


While shedding routes of Coxiella burnetii are identified, the characteristics of Coxiella shedding are still widely unknown, especially in dairy cattle. However, this information is crucial to assess the natural course of Coxiella burnetii infection within a herd and then to elaborate strategies to limit the risks of transmission between animals and to humans. The present study aimed at (i) describing the characteristics of Coxiella burnetii shedding by dairy cows (in milk, vaginal mucus, faeces) in five infected dairy herds, and at (ii) investigating the possible relationships between shedding patterns and serological responses. A total of 145 cows were included in a follow-up consisting of seven concomitant samplings of milk, vaginal mucus, faeces and blood (Day 0, D7, D14, D21, D28, D63, D90). Detection and quantification of Coxiella burnetii titres were performed in milk, vaginal mucus and faeces samples using real-time PCR assay, while antibodies against Coxiella were detected using an ELISA technique. For a given shedding route, and a given periodicity (weekly or monthly), cows were gathered into different shedding kinetic patterns according to the sequence of PCR responses. Distribution of estimated titres in Coxiella burnetii was described according to shedding kinetic patterns. Coxiella burnetii shedding was found scarcely and sporadically in faeces. Vaginal mucus shedding concerned almost 50% of the cows studied and was found intermittently or sporadically, depending on the periodicity considered. Almost 40% of cows were detected as milk shedders, with two predominant shedding patterns: persistent and sporadic, regardless of the sampling periodicity. Significantly higher estimated titres in Coxiella burnetii were observed in cows with persistent shedding patterns suggesting the existence of heavy shedder cows. These latter cows were mostly, persistently highly-seropositive, suggesting that repeated serological testings could be a reliable tool to screen heavy shedders, before using PCR assays.

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