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Trends Parasitol. 2015 Nov;31(11):536-552. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2015 Oct 11.

The Importance of Ticks in Q Fever Transmission: What Has (and Has Not) Been Demonstrated?

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Laboratoire MIVEGEC (Maladies Infectieuses et Vecteurs: Ecologie, Génétique, Evolution et Contrôle), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) Unité Mixte de Recherche UMR 5290, Université Montpellier 1 - Université Montpellier 2 - Institut pour la Recherche et le Développement, Unité de Recherche UR 224, Montpellier, France.
Anses, Sophia-Antipolis Laboratory, Animal Q fever Unit, Sophia-Antipolis, France.
UMR Biologie Moléculaire et Immunologie Parasitaires et Fongiques (BIPAR), Laboratoire Santé Animale, ANSES, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire d'Alfort (ENVA), Maisons-Alfort, France.
Unité d'Epidémiologie Animale, UR 0346 INRA, Saint Genès Champanelle, France. Electronic address:


Q fever is a widespread zoonotic disease caused by Coxiella burnetii, a ubiquitous intracellular bacterium infecting humans and a variety of animals. Transmission is primarily but not exclusively airborne, and ticks are usually thought to act as vectors. We argue that, although ticks may readily transmit C. burnetii in experimental systems, they only occasionally transmit the pathogen in the field. Furthermore, we underscore that many Coxiella-like bacteria are widespread in ticks and may have been misidentified as C. burnetii. Our recommendation is to improve the methods currently used to detect and characterize C. burnetii, and we propose that further knowledge of Coxiella-like bacteria will yield new insights into Q fever evolutionary ecology and C. burnetii virulence factors.

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