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Prev Vet Med. 2011 Aug 1;101(1-2):51-7. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2011.05.005. Epub 2011 Jun 8.

Seroprevalence of Q fever in naturally infected dairy cattle herds.

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ONIRIS, UMR 1300 Bio-Agression, Epidémiologie et Analyse de Risque, Nantes F-44307, France.


Coxiella burnetii is the causal agent of Q fever, a worldwide spread zoonosis. Prevention of C. burnetii shedding in cattle is critical to control the spread of the pathogen between animals, and from animals to humans. Vaccination with a phase 1 vaccine has been shown to be effective in preventing shedding when implemented in still susceptible animals, even in infected cattle herds. The identification of these animals (dairy cows and nulliparous females) as targets for vaccination consequently is crucial. Hygiene measures conventionally also are implemented, but their relative impact on C. burnetii diffusion remains unknown. The objectives of this study therefore were to (i) describe the distribution of the within-herd apparent seroprevalence among cows and nulliparous females and (ii) to explore the association between management practices and herd characteristics on the one hand, and these seroprevalences on the other. In a sample of 100 naturally and clinically infected dairy herds, blood samples were taken systematically from all nulliparous females (older than 12 months) and cows, and serologically tested. Information on herd characteristics and management practices were collected through a questionnaire filled in by each farmer. The variation in within-herd seroprevalence among cows and the risk for a herd of having at least one seropositive nulliparous female were investigated using multivariate (linear and logistic respectively) regression models. Median within-herd seroprevalence was 0.32 (Q1=0.22; Q3=0.43). We observed a low to null (median=0.01; Q1=0; Q3=0.10) within-herd seroprevalence in nulliparous females contrary to a high value (median=0.42) and variability (Q1=0.28; Q3=0.56) in cows. Only a few herd characteristics and management practices were found to be related to seroprevalence. Within-herd seroprevalence in cows was found to be significantly (P<0.10) higher in herds (i) with a number of cows<46, (ii) with seasonal calving, and (iii) with grazing or contact through the fence with other ruminant herds. The risk of having at least one seropositive nulliparous female was increased in herds (i) with seasonal calving and (ii) where the foetus and/or the placenta of aborted cows were not systematically removed. Our findings support, in addition to the implementation of high level of hygiene measures, the relevance of vaccination (at least in nulliparous females) as a method to control the spread of C. burnetii within an infected herd, as vaccination is effective in susceptible animals and given that nulliparous females are mostly not infected even in infected herds.

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