High incidence of Coxiella burnetii markers in a rural population in France
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- Thibon, M., Villiers, V., Souque, P. et al. Eur J Epidemiol (1996) 12: 509. doi:10.1007/BF00144005
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Since Coxiella burnetii, the causative agent of Q fever, is often transmitted from goats and sheep to humans through aerosols, we examined the sera from 168 persons involved in goat breeding in the Centre region of France and 40 members of veterinary and medical staff from the same region for the presence of antibodies against C. burnetii. An immunofluorescence assay was used to detect the presence of antibodies of the IgG isotope against epitopes from phase II of C. burnetii, which are the first antibodies to appear in infected people, and from phase I, which reflect more chronic stages of the infection. Our serological survey showed that most of the tested sera were positive for C. burnetii markers, indicating at least an encounter with the bacterium. In the overall population of 208 subjects, 71% of the sera had antibodies against phase II epitopes (titres ⩾ 1:40). Among the goat farmers and their immediate families, 78% had antibodies against phase II and 33% against phase I (titres ⩾ 1:40). Considering only high titres (⩾ 1:320), though, only 37% of the farmers had antibodies against phase II and 15% against phase 1. Only 3 out of 12 veterinarians working in the field had high titres of antibodies against phase II and phase I, while none of 28 members of veterinary and medical laboratories had significant levels of antibodies. These results emphasize the need for closer surveillance of populations at risk for Q fever, to prevent the infection by C. burnetii from reaching chronic stages of the disease.