Send to

Choose Destination
Appl Environ Microbiol. 2017 Jun 16;83(13). pii: e00222-17. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00222-17. Print 2017 Jul 1.

Coxiella burnetii Circulation in a Naturally Infected Flock of Sheep: Individual Follow-Up of Antibodies in Serum and Milk.

Author information

EPIA, INRA, VetAgro Sup, Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France.
EPIA, INRA, VetAgro Sup, Marcy l'Etoile, France.
ANSES, Laboratory of Sophia Antipolis, Animal Q Fever Unit, Sophia Antipolis, France.
UNICOR, Millau, France.
EPIA, INRA, VetAgro Sup, Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France


The control of Q fever, a zoonotic disease caused by the Coxiella burnetii bacterium, remains a scientific challenge. Domestic ruminants are considered the main reservoir, shedding C. burnetii essentially through parturition products during abortion or birth. Sheep are particularly frequently associated with human outbreaks, but there are insufficient field data to fully understand disease dynamics and to instigate efficient control measures. A longitudinal follow-up study of a naturally infected sheep flock was performed (i) to investigate relationships between seropositivity and bacterial shedding in the vaginal mucus, (ii) to describe the kinetics of antibodies, including responses to vaccination, (iii) to monitor maternal antibodies in ewe lambs, and (iv) to compare serological results for milk and serum samples. For 8 months, we collected blood samples every 3 weeks from 11 aborting and 26 nonaborting dairy ewes, 20 nonaborting suckler ewes, and 9 ewe lambs. Individual milk samples were also obtained from lactating females. All serum and milk samples were tested by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), whereas vaginal swabs were tested by quantitative PCR. We found that some dairy females did not seroconvert despite shedding C. burnetii in their vaginal mucus. Overall, antibody levels in adult females were found to remain stable over time, with exceptions during the mating and lambing periods. Maternal antibodies decreased during the first month after birth. Interestingly, antibody levels in milk were correlated with those in serum. This study provides valuable field data that will help improve Q fever surveillance and within-flock management measures.IMPORTANCE Field data are necessary to improve the surveillance, diagnosis, and sanitary management of Q fever in livestock. Here, we provide extensive serological data obtained from serum and milk samples from infected and vaccinated ewes belonging to a naturally infected flock of sheep. We show that antibody levels are stable over time and seropositivity and vaginal shedding are not clearly correlated, whereas antibody levels in milk are strongly correlated with those in serum. Accordingly, we find that antibody levels in bulk tank milk are consistent with the variations observed in the serum of dairy females over time. We report the existence of maternal antibody transmission to ewe lambs and we show that the presence of maternal antibodies at birth does not prevent the development of a serological response to vaccination at the age of 4 months. Finally, we report that adult ewes generally seroconvert after vaccination, including during pregnancy.


ELISA; Q fever; cohort study; maternal antibody; ruminant; serology; zoonosis

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center