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Q fever and coxiellosis in Brazil: an underestimated disease? A brief review

Febre Q e coxielose no Brasil: uma doença subestimada? Uma breve revisão

Abstract

Q fever, caused by the γ-proteobacterium Coxiella burnetii, is a zoonosis of great importance and global impact. This agent has high transmissibility and can spread over long distances via wind, in which a small number of aerosolized particles are needed to infect susceptible hosts. The clinical diagnosis of Q fever is difficult owing to the variety of clinical signs shared with other diseases. In Brazil, studies related to C. burnetii are constantly being conducted, and this review aims to increase the number of approaches already studied, leading to the following question: is Q fever an unknown, neglected disease, or does it have a focal occurrence in certain areas (exotic/rare) in the country?

Keywords:
Coxiella burnetii; zoonosis; infectious; small ruminants; humans

Resumo

A febre Q, causada pela γ-proteobactéria Coxiella burnetii, é uma zoonose de grande importância e impacto global. Este agente tem alta transmissibilidade e pode se espalhar por longas distâncias via vento, em que um pequeno número de partículas aerossolizadas são necessárias para infectar hospedeiros suscetíveis. O diagnóstico clínico da febre Q é difícil devido à variedade de sinais clínicos compartilhados com outras doenças. No Brasil, estudos relacionados à C. burnetii são constantemente realizados. Esta revisão visa aumentar o número de abordagens já estudadas, levando ao seguinte questionamento: a febre Q é uma doença desconhecida, negligenciada ou tem ocorrência focal em certas áreas (exóticas/raras) no país?

Palavras-chave:
Coxiella burnetii; zoonose; infecciosa; pequenos ruminantes; humanos

Introduction

Q fever (QF), a disease with worldwide distribution, is among 13 zoonoses of global priority in terms of its impact on human health, responsiveness to interventions in livestock, clinical severity, and emergency, mainly in poor countries (Grace et al., 2012Grace D, Mutua F, Ochungo P, Kruska R, Jones K, Brierley L, et al. Mapping of Poverty and Likely Zoonoses Hotspots. Zoonoses Project 4. Report to the UK Department for International Development [online]. London: ZSL Living Conservation; 2012 [cited 2022 Jan 18]. Available from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/57a08a67e5274a27b200059f/61303_zels-P4-dfid-zoonoses-report-4.pdf
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk...
). QF is caused by Coxiella burnetii, a Gram-negative γ-proteobacterium belonging to the order Legionellales and the family Coxiellaceae, which multiplies exclusively intracellularly (Maurin & Raoult, 1999Maurin M, Raoult DQ. Fever. Clin Microbiol Rev 1999; 12(4): 518-553. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.12.4.518. PMid:10515901.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.12.4.518...
). In the last decade, the public health relevance of QF increased after an outbreak in 2007 in the Netherlands, where more than 4,000 people became ill (Schneeberger et al., 2014Schneeberger PM, Wintenberger C, van der Hoek W, Stahl JP. Q fever in the Netherlands –2007–2010: what we learned from the largest outbreak ever. Med Mal Infect 2014; 44(8): 339-353. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.medmal.2014.02.006. PMid:25108615.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.medmal.2014....
).

The most common route of transmission is through inhalation of contaminated aerosols (Guatteo et al., 2006Guatteo R, Beaudeau F, Berri M, Rodolakis A, Joly A, Seegers H. Shedding routes of Coxiella burnetii in dairy cows: implications for detection and control. Vet Res 2006; 37(6): 827-833. http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/vetres:2006038. PMid:16973121.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/vetres:2006038...
). Humans who have direct contact with domestic ruminants or live close to rural locations are at a higher risk of contracting the infection as wind can contribute to the spread of the bacteria away from the primary infection area (Eldin et al., 2017Eldin C, Mélenotte C, Mediannikov O, Ghigo E, Million M, Edouard S, et al. From Q fever to Coxiella burnetii infection: a paradigm change. Clin Microbiol Rev 2017; 30(1): 115-190. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16. PMid:27856520.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16...
; Miller et al., 2021aMiller HK, Priestley RA, Kersh GJQ. Fever: a troubling disease and a challenging diagnosis. Clin Microbiol Newsl 2021a; 43(13): 109-118. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinmicnews.2021.06.003.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinmicnews....
). Less often, the ingestion of unpasteurized milk or cheese can also be associated with infection by C. burnetii (Gale et al., 2015Gale P, Kelly L, Mearns R, Duggan J, Snary EL. Q fever through consumption of unpasteurised milk and milk products – a risk profile and exposure assessment. J Appl Microbiol 2015; 118(5): 1083-1095. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jam.12778. PMid:25692216.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jam.12778...
; Miller et al., 2021bMiller HK, Priestley RA, Kersh GJ. Comparison of three Coxiella burnetii infectious routes in mice. Virulence 2021b; 12(1): 2562-2570. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21505594.2021.1980179. PMid:34569895.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21505594.2021....
), and transmission through tick bites among humans (Duron et al., 2015Duron O, Sidi-Boumedine K, Rousset E, Moutailler S, Jourdain E. The importance of ticks in q fever transmission: what has (and has not) been demonstrated? Trends Parasitol 2015; 31(11): 536-552. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pt.2015.06.014. PMid:26458781.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pt.2015.06.0...
).

Considering that coxiellosis is an immediately notifiable disease in any animal species in Brazil (Brasil, 2013Brasil. Ministério da Agricultura Pecuária e Abastecimento. Instrução Normativa N° 50, de 24 de setembro de 2013 . Diário Oficial da República Federativa do Brasil, Brasília; 2013 [cited 2022 May 12]. Available from: https://www.in.gov.br/materia/-/asset_publisher/Kujrw0TZC2Mb/content/id/31061237/do1-2013-09-25-instrucao-normativa-n-50-de-24-de-setembro-de-2013-31061233
https://www.in.gov.br/materia/-/asset_pu...
), the number of studies aimed at detecting infection by or exposure to C. burnetii in domestic and wild animals and contamination of milk and cheese has increased in the last few years. Nonetheless, the exact dynamics of the disease or the strain that circulates throughout the country are still unknown.

Transmission

Coxiella burnetii is an obligate intracellular bacterium that presents resistance and environmental stability and is one of the most infectious microorganisms in humans (Eldin et al., 2017Eldin C, Mélenotte C, Mediannikov O, Ghigo E, Million M, Edouard S, et al. From Q fever to Coxiella burnetii infection: a paradigm change. Clin Microbiol Rev 2017; 30(1): 115-190. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16. PMid:27856520.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16...
). Indeed, only 1–10 bacteria can infect and cause disease in a healthy person by the inhalation of contaminated aerosols (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information for healthcare providers [online]. USA: CDC; 2019 [cited 2022 Jan 18]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/qfever/healthcare-providers/index.html
https://www.cdc.gov/qfever/healthcare-pr...
). Although this agent can replicate in various animal hosts, such as wild mammals, domestic mammals, birds, and arthropods (Maurin & Raoult, 1999Maurin M, Raoult DQ. Fever. Clin Microbiol Rev 1999; 12(4): 518-553. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.12.4.518. PMid:10515901.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.12.4.518...
), ruminants have been implicated as the main reservoirs for human infection (Pexara et al., 2018Pexara A, Solomakos N, Govaris A. Q fever and seroprevalence of Coxiella burnetii in domestic ruminants. Vet Ital 2018; 54(4): 265-279. http://dx.doi.org/10.12834/VetIt.1113.6046.3. PMid:30681125.
http://dx.doi.org/10.12834/VetIt.1113.60...
). When infected, these animals shed the infectious agent predominantly through vaginal secretions, milk, feces, urine, and semen (Guatteo et al., 2006Guatteo R, Beaudeau F, Berri M, Rodolakis A, Joly A, Seegers H. Shedding routes of Coxiella burnetii in dairy cows: implications for detection and control. Vet Res 2006; 37(6): 827-833. http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/vetres:2006038. PMid:16973121.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/vetres:2006038...
). In addition, the pathogen can persist up to 1 month in refrigerated meat, in sheep wool for up to 10 months at 15-25 °C and up to 40 months at room temperature in powdered milk. Humans are primarily infected by contaminated aerosol inhalation (Gürtler et al., 2014Gürtler L, Bauerfeind U, Blümel J, Burger R, Drosten C, Gröner A, et al. Coxiella burnetii – pathogenic agent of Q (query) fever. Transfus Med Hemother 2014; 41(1): 60-72. http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000357107. PMid:24659949.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000357107...
).

Bacterium can infect placental trophoblastic cells and replicate at high densities in the placentas of ruminants and other mammals (Sánchez et al., 2006Sánchez J, Souriau A, Buendía AJ, Arricau-Bouvery N, Martínez CM, Salinas J, et al. Experimental Coxiella burnetii infection in pregnant goats: a histopathological and immunohistochemical study. J Comp Pathol 2006; 135(2-3): 108-115. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcpa.2006.06.003. PMid:16997003.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcpa.2006.06...
). A common clinical sign observed is abortion in sheep, goats, and women (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information for healthcare providers [online]. USA: CDC; 2019 [cited 2022 Jan 18]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/qfever/healthcare-providers/index.html
https://www.cdc.gov/qfever/healthcare-pr...
). When mammals reach the end of gestation, healthy or unhealthy offspring are born. At this stage, C. burnetii spores sheds into the environment through the placenta and birth fluids. Therefore, C. burnetii can be transmitted directly during birth and contaminate the environment (Clark & Soares Magalhães, 2018Clark NJ, Soares Magalhães RJ. Airborne geographical dispersal of Q fever from livestock holdings to human communities: a systematic review and critical appraisal of evidence. BMC Infect Dis 2018; 18(1): 218. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12879-018-3135-4. PMid:29764368.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12879-018-313...
).

Infection can reach up to 18 km from the point of origin via wind (Clark & Soares Magalhães, 2018Clark NJ, Soares Magalhães RJ. Airborne geographical dispersal of Q fever from livestock holdings to human communities: a systematic review and critical appraisal of evidence. BMC Infect Dis 2018; 18(1): 218. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12879-018-3135-4. PMid:29764368.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12879-018-313...
). In addition, the number of people infected by an airborne pathogen depends on the force of emission, airborne transmission from the source to the receiver depending on weather and environmental conditions, and human exposure (duration, location, and physical activity). For instance, geographical areas with low vegetation and low soil moisture levels have higher levels of C. burnetii transmission (Van Leuken et al., 2016Van Leuken JPG, Swart AN, Brandsma J, Terink W, Van de Kassteele J, Droogers P, et al. Human Q fever incidence is associated to spatiotemporal environmental conditions. One Health 2016; 2: 77-87. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.onehlt.2016.03.004. PMid:28616479.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.onehlt.2016....
).

Other routes of transmission are rare, such as tick bites, ingestion of unpasteurized milk or dairy products, and person-to-person transmission (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Information for healthcare providers [online]. USA: CDC; 2019 [cited 2022 Jan 18]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/qfever/healthcare-providers/index.html
https://www.cdc.gov/qfever/healthcare-pr...
). However, there is still ongoing research about the importance of ingestion of contaminated milk and dairy products in the epidemiology of QF. Even though the infective dose needed for oral transmission of this agent is still unknown, a higher dosage is presumed to be necessary to allow a successful infection when compared to aerosol inhalation (Gale et al., 2015Gale P, Kelly L, Mearns R, Duggan J, Snary EL. Q fever through consumption of unpasteurised milk and milk products – a risk profile and exposure assessment. J Appl Microbiol 2015; 118(5): 1083-1095. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jam.12778. PMid:25692216.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jam.12778...
; Miller et al., 2021bMiller HK, Priestley RA, Kersh GJ. Comparison of three Coxiella burnetii infectious routes in mice. Virulence 2021b; 12(1): 2562-2570. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21505594.2021.1980179. PMid:34569895.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21505594.2021....
). Epidemiological evidence of an association between QF outbreaks and the consumption of unpasteurized dairy products has been reported (Signs et al., 2012Signs KA, Stobierski MG, Gandhi TN. Q fever cluster among raw milk drinkers in Michigan, 2011. Clin Infect Dis 2012; 55(10): 1387-1389. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cid/cis690. PMid:22893578.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cid/cis690...
). In addition, since 1957, C. burnetii has been considered a chief microorganism to be eliminated from milk by exposure to high temperatures owing to its high heat resistance and pathogenicity (Enright et al., 1957Enright JB, Sadler WW, Thomas RC. Pasteurization of Milk Containing the Organism of Q Fever. Am J Public Health Nations Health 1957; 47(6): 695-700. http://dx.doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.47.6.695. PMid:13424814.
http://dx.doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.47.6.695...
).

The role of ectoparasites in the transmission of Q fever

The presence of a hematophagous arthropod vector is not necessary for the transmission of C. burnetii but it is possible that this pathogen circulates between animals, with some participation of ectoparasites (Eldin et al., 2017Eldin C, Mélenotte C, Mediannikov O, Ghigo E, Million M, Edouard S, et al. From Q fever to Coxiella burnetii infection: a paradigm change. Clin Microbiol Rev 2017; 30(1): 115-190. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16. PMid:27856520.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16...
). The role of ticks in the transmission of QF varies according to the epidemiological scenario. The importance of these arthropods is more significant in wildlife, as in rodents, birds, and lagomorphs, than in domesticated herds in developed countries (Eldin et al., 2017Eldin C, Mélenotte C, Mediannikov O, Ghigo E, Million M, Edouard S, et al. From Q fever to Coxiella burnetii infection: a paradigm change. Clin Microbiol Rev 2017; 30(1): 115-190. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16. PMid:27856520.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16...
; The Center for Food Security and Public Health, 2017The Center for Food Security and Public Health. Q Fever [online]. 2017 [cited 2022 Jan 18]. Available from: https://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets/pdfs/q_fever.pdf
https://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets...
). The pathogen has been detected in several tick species, such as Amblyomma spp., Rhipicephalus spp., Dermacentor spp., Ixodes spp., Hyalomma spp., Haemaphysalis spp., in addition to other arthropods such as bed bugs, flies, and mites (Maurin & Raoult, 1999Maurin M, Raoult DQ. Fever. Clin Microbiol Rev 1999; 12(4): 518-553. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.12.4.518. PMid:10515901.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.12.4.518...
; Eldin et al., 2017Eldin C, Mélenotte C, Mediannikov O, Ghigo E, Million M, Edouard S, et al. From Q fever to Coxiella burnetii infection: a paradigm change. Clin Microbiol Rev 2017; 30(1): 115-190. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16. PMid:27856520.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16...
). However, the common presence of Coxiella-like endosymbionts in ticks may cause overestimation of the prevalence of this agent (Duron et al., 2015Duron O, Sidi-Boumedine K, Rousset E, Moutailler S, Jourdain E. The importance of ticks in q fever transmission: what has (and has not) been demonstrated? Trends Parasitol 2015; 31(11): 536-552. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pt.2015.06.014. PMid:26458781.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pt.2015.06.0...
).

When evaluated in vitro, tick infection by C. burnetii is typically systemic, as the bacteria have been detected in the midgut, hemolymph, Malpighian tubules, salivary glands, and ovaries (Lang, 1990Lang GH. Coxiellosis (Q fever) in animals. In: Thomas JM. Q Fever. Boston: CRC Press; 1990. p. 23-48.). Indeed, these arthropods excrete C. burnetii in their body fluids and feces (up to 1010/g) (Philip, 1948Philip CB. Observations on experimental Q fever. J Parasitol 1948; 34(6): 457-464. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3273312. PMid:18099928.
http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3273312...
). Thus, transmission of the agent by ticks to animals or humans can occur through dropping, direct contact, or bites (Duron et al., 2015Duron O, Sidi-Boumedine K, Rousset E, Moutailler S, Jourdain E. The importance of ticks in q fever transmission: what has (and has not) been demonstrated? Trends Parasitol 2015; 31(11): 536-552. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pt.2015.06.014. PMid:26458781.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pt.2015.06.0...
).

In vivo, the ability of ticks to transmit C. burnetii depends on the tick population density, host preference and ecological constraints. Even if ticks are competent vectors in vitro, they can inefficiently transmit this pathogen in vivo. Moreover, they can act as key drivers of heterospecific transmission and the spatial spread of pathogens among vertebrates (Duron et al., 2015Duron O, Sidi-Boumedine K, Rousset E, Moutailler S, Jourdain E. The importance of ticks in q fever transmission: what has (and has not) been demonstrated? Trends Parasitol 2015; 31(11): 536-552. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pt.2015.06.014. PMid:26458781.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pt.2015.06.0...
).

Diagnosis and Genotyping

The virulence of C. burnetii is linked to lipopolysaccharide (LPS), found in two different phases on its surface. In phase I, LPS is in its complete virulence-bound form. Phase II represents the truncated and nonvirulent LPS form, resulting from phase I LPS after passages in cell culture, embryonated chicken eggs, or synthetic media in which it has lost its virulence (Moos & Hackstadt, 1987Moos A, Hackstadt T. Comparative virulence of intra-and interstrain lipopolysaccharide variants of Coxiella burnetii in the guinea pig model. Infect Immun 1987; 55(5): 1144-1150. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/iai.55.5.1144-1150.1987. PMid:3570458.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/iai.55.5.1144-...
; Anderson et al., 2013Anderson A, Bijlmer H, Fournier PE, Graves S, Hartzell J, Kersh GJ, et al. Diagnosis and Management of Q Fever - United States, 2013: Recommendations from CDC and the Q Fever Working Group [online]. USA: CDC; 2013 [cited 2022 May 12]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6203a1.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtm...
). In epidemiological studies, it is preferable to search for anti-phase II antibodies that are always present during infection (Anderson et al., 2013Anderson A, Bijlmer H, Fournier PE, Graves S, Hartzell J, Kersh GJ, et al. Diagnosis and Management of Q Fever - United States, 2013: Recommendations from CDC and the Q Fever Working Group [online]. USA: CDC; 2013 [cited 2022 May 12]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6203a1.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtm...
). Some nonvirulent environmental strains express phase I LPS; additional factors are believed to contribute to virulence. Valvular disease and immunosuppression are known risk factors for QF endocarditis, with the understanding that host and environmental conditions also influence the outcome of the disease and clinical presentation of the infection (Honstettre et al., 2003Honstettre A, Imbert G, Ghigo E, Gouriet F, Capo C, Raoult D, et al. Dysregulation of cytokines in acute Q fever: role of interleukin-10 and tumor necrosis factor in chronic evolution of Q fever. J Infect Dis 2003; 187(6): 956-962. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/368129. PMid:12660942.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/368129...
).

In some cases, Coxiella burnetii can enter a latent phase and reappear as a more severe localized infection months or years later, as cases of chronic QF, regardless of the initial symptomatology or the severity of the disease during acute QF (Anderson et al., 2013Anderson A, Bijlmer H, Fournier PE, Graves S, Hartzell J, Kersh GJ, et al. Diagnosis and Management of Q Fever - United States, 2013: Recommendations from CDC and the Q Fever Working Group [online]. USA: CDC; 2013 [cited 2022 May 12]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6203a1.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtm...
; Eldin et al., 2017Eldin C, Mélenotte C, Mediannikov O, Ghigo E, Million M, Edouard S, et al. From Q fever to Coxiella burnetii infection: a paradigm change. Clin Microbiol Rev 2017; 30(1): 115-190. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16. PMid:27856520.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16...
). It has been proposed that the term “persistent focused infection” should be adopted instead of “chronic QF” to identify the site where the infection is located (Eldin et al., 2017Eldin C, Mélenotte C, Mediannikov O, Ghigo E, Million M, Edouard S, et al. From Q fever to Coxiella burnetii infection: a paradigm change. Clin Microbiol Rev 2017; 30(1): 115-190. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16. PMid:27856520.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16...
). Chronic QF is associated with phase I IgG antibodies (Wegdam-Blans et al., 2012Wegdam-Blans MCA, Wielders CCH, Meekelenkamp J, Korbeeck JM, Herremans T, Tjhie HT, et al. Evaluation of commonly used serological tests for detection of Coxiella burnetii antibodies in well-defined acute and follow-up sera. Clin Vaccine Immunol 2012; 19(7): 1110-1115. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CVI.05581-11. PMid:22623653.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CVI.05581-11...
).

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health - OIE (2018)World Organisation for Animal Health – OIE. Q Fever: Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals [online]. Paris: OIE; 2018 [cited 2022 May 12]. Available from: https://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/eng/Health_standards/tahm/3.01.16_Q_FEVER.pdf
https://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/eng/H...
, there is no gold standard for the techniques used for diagnosis, although polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) have been considered methods of choice. Comparing ELISA with indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA), the latter is considered more sensitive and efficient in detecting IgM phase II antibodies, as ELISA is not as sensitive in detecting phase II antibodies, mainly when low antibody titers are found (Sahu et al., 2020Sahu R, Rawool DB, Vinod VK, Malik SVS, Barbuddhe SB. Current approaches for the detection of Coxiella burnetii infection in humans and animals. J Microbiol Methods 2020; 179: 106087. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mimet.2020.106087. PMid:33086105.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mimet.2020.1...
). Commercial ELISA kits are available for the detection of phase I and II antibodies or phase-specific antibodies (Sahu et al., 2020Sahu R, Rawool DB, Vinod VK, Malik SVS, Barbuddhe SB. Current approaches for the detection of Coxiella burnetii infection in humans and animals. J Microbiol Methods 2020; 179: 106087. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mimet.2020.106087. PMid:33086105.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mimet.2020.1...
). Although ELISA is less sensitive than IFA, owing to its ease of execution, it is widely used for screening a large number of samples (Miller et al., 2021aMiller HK, Priestley RA, Kersh GJQ. Fever: a troubling disease and a challenging diagnosis. Clin Microbiol Newsl 2021a; 43(13): 109-118. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinmicnews.2021.06.003.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinmicnews....
).

The use of molecular techniques for strain discrimination can aid in understanding the epidemiology of diseases and is a suitable tool for tracing outbreaks, such as multispacer sequence typing (MST) and multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis). Mioni et al. (2020b)Mioni MSR, Sidi-Boumedine K, Dalanezi FM, Joaquim SF, Denadai S, Teixeira WSR, et al. New Genotypes of Coxiella burnetii circulating in Brazil and Argentina. Pathogens 2020b; 9(1): 30. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/pathogens9010030. PMid:31905637.
http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/pathogens90100...
observed, in Brazil, strains of C. burnetii with new genotypes by MST, namely CbCbB_F2 (detected in cattle fetuses), CbG_SVB22 (goat vaginal swabs), CbO_sn2 (sheep vaginal swabs), and Argentina (At12 - isolated from a tick), as well as genotypes already described in the literature. These findings suggest an independent evolution of the Argentinean strain and a common ancestor among Brazilian lineages, in addition to the two strains possibly introduced by the trade in animals and animal products.

Five types of plasmids have been described in C. burnetii: QpH1, QpRS, QpDV, QpDG, and an unnamed plasmid from a strain (CBQY) isolated in China. Pioneering studies have suggested that the plasmid content determines whether an isolate causes an acute or chronic disease (Dragan & Voth, 2020Dragan AL, Voth DE. Coxiella burnetii: international pathogen of mystery. Microbes Infect 2020; 22(3): 100-110. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.micinf.2019.09.001. PMid:31574310.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.micinf.2019....
). In a virulence evaluation study of strains of the different origins inoculated into guinea pigs, five groups were evaluated; group I (QpH1 plasmid) strains expressing stage I LPS caused the most severe disease. The group II (QpH1 plasmid) strain, which is associated with acute human disease, appeared to be more virulent than the group I strains. The group III (QpH1 plasmid) strain appeared to be almost as virulent as the group I strain. Group IV (QpRS plasmid) strains were associated with persistent focused infections but appeared to be mildly virulent in the model studied. Group V (integrated plasmid sequence) strains are also associated with persistent and focused infections. Finally, group VI (QpDG plasmid) strains were shown to be avirulent owing to the absence of any clinical presentation of the disease, even producing phase I LPS, that are necessary for virulence. These findings suggest that C. burnetii may need additional virulence factors or may produce factors that attenuate virulence (Long et al., 2019Long CM, Beare PA, Cockrell DC, Larson CL, Heinzen RA. Comparative virulence of diverse Coxiella burnetii strains. Virulence 2019; 10(1): 133-150. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21505594.2019.1575715. PMid:30782062.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21505594.2019....
).

Risk factors associated with Coxiella burnetii infection

Monitoring C. burnetii infection in domestic ruminant herds is of great importance since these animals are the main reservoirs responsible for human outbreaks. Domestic ruminants can shed the bacteria in large quantities in birth products, urine, faeces and milk, without showing clinical signs (Eldin et al., 2017Eldin C, Mélenotte C, Mediannikov O, Ghigo E, Million M, Edouard S, et al. From Q fever to Coxiella burnetii infection: a paradigm change. Clin Microbiol Rev 2017; 30(1): 115-190. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16. PMid:27856520.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16...
). Therefore, QF is often considered an occupational disease, as workers in direct contact with livestock (farmers, slaughterhouse workers, and veterinarians) have a higher risk of the disease (Miller et al., 2021aMiller HK, Priestley RA, Kersh GJQ. Fever: a troubling disease and a challenging diagnosis. Clin Microbiol Newsl 2021a; 43(13): 109-118. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinmicnews.2021.06.003.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinmicnews....
). Furthermore, people working in laboratories cultivating the bacterium, obstetricians who manage parturient women with QF, and the military also have higher risks (Eldin et al., 2017Eldin C, Mélenotte C, Mediannikov O, Ghigo E, Million M, Edouard S, et al. From Q fever to Coxiella burnetii infection: a paradigm change. Clin Microbiol Rev 2017; 30(1): 115-190. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16. PMid:27856520.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16...
).

To reduce the risk, a set of measures on farms needs to be effective, such as vaccination (in Brazil there is still no availability of the vaccine), manure management, shearing management, segregated breeding area when sick animals are present, removal of risk material, prohibition of visitors, and control of other animal reservoirs (domestic and wild mammals) and ticks. Temporary changes in reproduction, identification, and slaughter of herds and the control of animal movements can influence transmission to humans (OIE, 2018World Organisation for Animal Health – OIE. Q Fever: Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals [online]. Paris: OIE; 2018 [cited 2022 May 12]. Available from: https://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/eng/Health_standards/tahm/3.01.16_Q_FEVER.pdf
https://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/eng/H...
). In the Northeast region, the rearing of domestic ruminants is carried out mainly by small producers, in a predominantly extensive and semi-extensive way, characterized by the use of native pasture and little increase in reproductive, sanitary and food management techniques (Alves et al., 2017Alves AR, Vilela MS, Andrade MVM, Pinto LS, Lima DB, Lima LLL. Caracterização do sistema de produção caprino e ovino na região sul do Estado do Maranhão, Brasil. Vet Zootec 2017; 24(3): 515-524. http://dx.doi.org/10.35172/rvz.2017.v24.287.
http://dx.doi.org/10.35172/rvz.2017.v24....
). The animals are outside the premises part of the day and roam the wild environment to be able to feed, difficult to control the movement of animals.

World Situation

QF is a reported disease worldwide, except in New Zealand, and several countries treat it as a nationally notifiable condition (Miller et al., 2021aMiller HK, Priestley RA, Kersh GJQ. Fever: a troubling disease and a challenging diagnosis. Clin Microbiol Newsl 2021a; 43(13): 109-118. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinmicnews.2021.06.003.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinmicnews....
). The prevalence is highly variable from one country to another owing to epidemiological disparities and/or the possibility of subnotification (Eldin et al., 2017Eldin C, Mélenotte C, Mediannikov O, Ghigo E, Million M, Edouard S, et al. From Q fever to Coxiella burnetii infection: a paradigm change. Clin Microbiol Rev 2017; 30(1): 115-190. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16. PMid:27856520.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16...
). In areas of endemicity, QF occurs sporadically, usually after activities considered risky, such as agricultural activities and slaughterhouse works (Lautenschläger et al., 2000Lautenschläger S, Willems H, Jäger C, Baljer G. Sequencing and characterization of the cryptic plasmid QpRS from Coxiella burnetii. Plasmid 2000; 44(1): 85-88. http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/plas.2000.1470. PMid:10873529.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/plas.2000.1470...
).

The first report of QF was in 1935, when an investigation of an outbreak of undiagnosed febrile illness among slaughterhouse workers was conducted in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. First, the causative agent of the disease was thought to be a rickettsial agent called Rickettsia burnetii. While wild animals were considered the main reservoirs, domestic animals were implicated as secondary reservoirs, and the disease was assumed to be transmitted by ticks or other arthropods. After many studies, it was concluded that the causative agent was a bacterium belonging to the order Legionellales and was renamed C. burnetii (Maurin and Raoult, 1999Maurin M, Raoult DQ. Fever. Clin Microbiol Rev 1999; 12(4): 518-553. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.12.4.518. PMid:10515901.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.12.4.518...
). In Australia, 400–600 cases per year were reported between 2003 and 2017 (Tozer et al., 2020Tozer S, Wood C, Si D, Nissen M, Sloots T, Lambert S. The improving state of Q fever surveillance. A review of Queensland notifications, 2003-2017. Commun Dis Intell (2018) 2020; 44. http://dx.doi.org/10.33321/cdi.2020.44.48. PMid:32536338.
http://dx.doi.org/10.33321/cdi.2020.44.4...
).

In 1940, 15 individuals were infected in the United States after the initiation of QF studies at the National Institutes of Health. Later, in 1946, 47 individuals in the same locality developed the disease. It is believed that the reason for these cases was the incorrect handling of the bacteria, resulting in the release of the agent into the air of the facility, as not all infected people worked directly with the disease (Hirschmann, 2019Hirschmann JV. The discovery of Q fever and its cause. Am J Med Sci 2019; 358(1): 3-10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amjms.2019.04.006. PMid:31076071.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amjms.2019.0...
). Starting in 1999, cases in the country were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the number of cases varying between 164 and 215 in 2016 and 2018, respectively (Miller et al., 2021aMiller HK, Priestley RA, Kersh GJQ. Fever: a troubling disease and a challenging diagnosis. Clin Microbiol Newsl 2021a; 43(13): 109-118. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinmicnews.2021.06.003.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinmicnews....
).

Africa was the third continent to document QF in 1955, where nine countries reported varying numbers of infected individuals (Eldin et al, 2017Eldin C, Mélenotte C, Mediannikov O, Ghigo E, Million M, Edouard S, et al. From Q fever to Coxiella burnetii infection: a paradigm change. Clin Microbiol Rev 2017; 30(1): 115-190. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16. PMid:27856520.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00045-16...
). In the same year, the disease spread to South America, with the first case documented in a slaughterhouse in Cayenne, French Guiana. Sporadic cases have occurred in South America over the years, with 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 2005 (Eldin et al., 2014Eldin C, Raoult D, Demar M, Mahamat A, Djossou F, Abboud P. Q fever in French Guiana. Am J Trop Med Hyg 2014; 91(4): 771-776. http://dx.doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.14-0282. PMid:25092817.
http://dx.doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.14-0282...
).

Between 2007 and 2010, the largest QF epidemic ever occurred in the Netherlands. Seasonal outbreaks have resulted in at least 4,000 known acute cases and an estimated total of 40,000 cases (Delsing et al., 2010Delsing CE, Kullberg BJ, Bleeker-Rovers CP. Q fever in the Netherlands from 2007 to 2010. Neth J Med 2010; 68(12): 382-387. PMid:21209463.; Dijkstra et al., 2012Dijkstra F, van der Hoek W, Wijers N, Schimmer B, Rietveld A, Wijkmans CJ, et al. The 2007–2010 Q fever epidemic in the Netherlands: characteristics of notified acute Q fever patients and the association with dairy goat farming. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol 2012; 64(1): 3-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1574-695X.2011.00876.x. PMid:22066649.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1574-695X.20...
). Not all infected people worked directly with animals but were located downwind on dairy farms (Kampschreur et al., 2014Kampschreur LM, Delsing CE, Groenwold RH, Wegdam-Blans MC, Bleeker-Rovers CP, de Jager-Leclercq MG, et al. Chronic Q fever in the Netherlands 5 years after the start of the Q fever epidemic: results from the Dutch chronic Q fever database. J Clin Microbiol 2014; 52(5): 1637-1643. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JCM.03221-13. PMid:24599987.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/JCM.03221-13...
; Oliveira et al., 2017Oliveira RD, Mousel MR, Pabilonia KL, Highland MA, Taylor JB, Knowles DP, et al. Domestic sheep show average Coxiella burnetii seropositivity generations after a sheep-associated human Q fever outbreak and lack detectable shedding by placental, vaginal, and fecal routes. PLoS One 2017; 12(11): e0188054. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188054. PMid:29141023.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0...
). Although a public health strategy was implemented, it was not successful, and it was decided to systematically slaughter pregnant goats and sheep, with more than 50,000 animals being slaughtered (Schneeberger et al., 2014Schneeberger PM, Wintenberger C, van der Hoek W, Stahl JP. Q fever in the Netherlands –2007–2010: what we learned from the largest outbreak ever. Med Mal Infect 2014; 44(8): 339-353. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.medmal.2014.02.006. PMid:25108615.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.medmal.2014....
). To control the disease, vaccination of animals was implemented (Roest et al., 2011Roest HI, Tilburg JJ, van Der Hoek W, Vellema P, Van Zijderveld FG, Klaassen CH, et al. The Q fever epidemic in The Netherlands: History, onset, response and reflection. Epidemiol Infect 2011; 139(1): 1-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0950268810002268. PMid:20920383.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0950268810002...
).

Situation in Brazil

Studies in Brazil have been conducted on animals (domestic and wild), humans, and food (Table 1 and Figure 1), as well as the genotypic evaluation of bacteria. They began in the 1950s, when Brandão et al. (1953)Brandão H, Vale LAR, Christovão DA. Investigações sobre a febre “Q” em São Paulo. I – Estudo sorológico em operários de um frigorífico. Arq Fac Hig Saude Publica Univ Sao Paulo 1953; 7(1): 127-131. http://dx.doi.org/10.11606/issn.2358-792X.v7i1p127-131.
http://dx.doi.org/10.11606/issn.2358-792...
investigated meat handlers and, as a control, employees of a glass factory in São Paulo state. The authors found antibodies in 1.56% of the total samples analyzed (meat handlers and glass factory workers), with endpoint titers ranging from 4 to 8 in the complement fixation test (no phase I or phase II specification), concluding that C. burnetii was circulating at this location. Then, 71 cattle handlers were examined for the presence of anti-C. burnetii antibodies, which were found in five (7%) of these patients through the complement fixation test, with endpoint titers ranging between 8 and 16, no phase I or phase II specification (Valle et al., 1955Valle LAR, Brandão H, Christovão DA, D’Apice M. Investigações sobre a febre Q em São Paulo – II – Estudo em tratadores de gado e em bovinos. Arq Fac Hig Saude Publica Univ Sao Paulo 1955; 9(1/2): 167-180. http://dx.doi.org/10.11606/issn.2358-792X.v9i1-2p167-180.
http://dx.doi.org/10.11606/issn.2358-792...
).

Table 1
Serological and/or molecular detection studies of Coxiella burnetii carried out in Brazil.
Figure 1
Serological and/or molecular detection studies of Coxiella burnetii carried out in Brazil.

Since then, other studies have been developed, even with a large space of time between them. After 19 years in Minas Gerais State, the presence of anti-C. burnetii antibodies in 22% of 219 students was reported at the Belo Horizonte School of Veterinary Medicine, with endpoint titers ranging from 4 to 64 using the microagglutination test, no phase I or phase II specification (Riemann et al., 1974Riemann HP, Brant PC, Franti CE, Reis R, Buchanan AM, Stormont C, et al. Antibodies to Toxoplasma gondii and Coxiella burnetii among students and other personnel in veterinary colleges in California and Brazil. Am J Epidemiol 1974; 100(3): 197-208. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a112028. PMid:4606228.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals...
). In 2005, the studies became more consolidated in the country, and a study including 437 people from the municipality of Piau, Minas Gerais reported the presence of anti-C. burnetii antibodies in 3.9% of participants by the IFA test, using phase I and phase II antigens, with titers ranging from 64 to 128. Of these, there were multiple/cross-reactive samples between C. burnetii and Bartonella henselae (11.8%), Bartonella quintana (5.9%), Rickettsia rickettsii (11.8%), Rickettsia typhi (11.8%), and Ehrlichia chaffeensis (11.8%). The local economy of that municipality was linked to livestock; the entire population has continuous contact with several domestic animals, and tick attack history is widespread, affecting approximately 100% of the population (Costa et al., 2005Costa PSG, Brigatte ME, Greco DB. Antibodies to Rickettsia rickettsii, Rickettsia typhi, Coxiella burnetii, Bartonella henselae, Bartonella quintana, and Ehrlichia chaffeensis among healthy population in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 2005; 100(8): 853-859. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0074-02762005000800006. PMid:16444416.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0074-02762005...
).

These epidemiological studies were initiated with humans who were at risk of development of the disease, that is, those who had direct contact or were close to animals, mainly cattle, goats, and sheep, which are the main hosts of the bacterium (Maurin & Raoult, 1999Maurin M, Raoult DQ. Fever. Clin Microbiol Rev 1999; 12(4): 518-553. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.12.4.518. PMid:10515901.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.12.4.518...
). Accordingly, other studies have been developed on the same topic with the objective of understanding QF in some regions. Another high-risk group is immunosuppressed individuals. In Rio de Janeiro, the anti-C. burnetii antibodies by IFA test, no phase I or phase II specification, was observed in 3.2% of 125 HIV-positive persons, with titer endpoints between 64 and 128 (Lamas et al., 2009Lamas CC, Rozental T, Bóia MN, Favacho AR, Kirsten AH, da Silva AP, et al. Seroprevalence of Coxiella burnetii antibodies in human immunodeficiency virus-positive patients in Jacarepaguá, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Clin Microbiol Infect 2009; 15(Suppl 2): 140-141. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-0691.2008.02144.x. PMid:19298403.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-0691.20...
), and 9.3% of 300 people who injected drugs. These findings suggest that the exposure to C. burnetii may be related to non-hygienic injection practices, immunosuppression, and sharing of injection paraphernalia (Rozental et al., 2018aRozental T, Silva ASVD, Oliveira RC, Favacho ARM, Oliveira MLA, Bastos FI, et al. Seroprevalence of Bartonella spp., Coxiella burnetii, and Hantavirus among people who inject drugs in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: a retrospective assessment of a biobank. Rev Inst Med Trop São Paulo 2018a; 60: e31. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1678-9946201860031. PMid:30043935.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1678-99462018...
).

In 2008, the first case report in Bahia was published, in which a patient with a history of dyspnea worked in cattle fields and frequently consumed raw milk and its derivatives. Consequently, it was confirmed through IFA the presence of anti-C. burnetii antibodies with titers above 1,600 (phase I). Despite the recommended treatment with doxycycline and ciprofloxacin due to the possibility of C. burnetii endocarditis, 3 weeks later the symptoms returned, and the patient subsequently died (Siciliano et al., 2008Siciliano RF, Ribeiro HB, Furtado RHM, Castelli JB, Sampaio RO, Santos FCP, et al. Endocardite por Coxiella burnetii (febre Q): doença rara ou pouco diagnosticada? Relato de caso. Rev Soc Bras Med Trop 2008; 41(4): 409-412. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0037-86822008000400017. PMid:18853017.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0037-86822008...
). Two years later, in Rio de Janeiro, a case of QF was confirmed by conventional PCR (based on htpAB gene) and two samples, collected at different times (40 and 70 days after onset of the illness), were seropositive by the IFA test (endpoint titers to phase II antigen of 256 and 1,024, respectively) in a man with a 40-day fever associated with thrombocytosis. Because it is an easily transmitted disease, all residents of the households, including animals, were tested, and anti-C. burnetii antibodies were detected in his wife (titer of anti-phase II IgG of 128) and two dogs (titers of anti-phase II IgG of 64 and 128) (Lemos et al., 2011Lemos ERS, Rozental T, Mares-Guia MAM, Almeida DNP, Moreira N, Silva RG, et al. Q Fever as a cause of fever of unknown origin and thrombocytosis: first molecular evidence of Coxiella burnetii in Brazil. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 2011; 11(1): 85-87. http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/vbz.2009.0261. PMid:20569012.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/vbz.2009.0261...
).

Other studies have been related to the symptoms found in some patients, as QF has non-specific symptoms and can be confused with other diseases. In this study, 726 patients with a history of fever treated at five health centers in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais State, were evaluated. Of these, 2.2% were seroconverted to C. burnetii, with titers ranging from 32 to 2048, phase I and phase II (Costa et al., 2006Costa PSG, Brigatte ME, Greco DB. Questing one Brazilian query: reporting 16 cases of Q fever from Minas Gerais, Brazil. Rev Inst Med Trop São Paulo 2006; 48(1): 5-9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0036-46652006000100002. PMid:16547572.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0036-46652006...
). In 2018, an assessment was published in Rio de Janeiro on five cadets with febrile illness after the military survival training camp, where it was reported that they had numerous tick bites, and 45 cadets directly participated in the slaughter of animals for food in the field, including goats. Five cadets were seroconverted to anti-C. burnetii antibodies and reached an endpoint titer of 16,384 (phase II). In addition, C. burnetii DNA was detected by PCR in a bronchoalveolar lavage sample from one cadet (Lemos et al., 2018Lemos ERS, Rozental T, Siqueira BN, Júnior AAP, Joaquim TE, Silva RG, et al. Q Fever in Military Firefighters during Cadet Training in Brazil. Am J Trop Med Hyg 2018; 99(2): 303-305. http://dx.doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.17-0979. PMid:29943714.
http://dx.doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.17-0979...
).

Therefore, in 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, a man diagnosed with severe pneumonia presented with anti-C. burnetii antibodies with a titer endpoint of 512 in the IFA test (phase I and phase II). Additionally, C. burnetii DNA was detected in bronchoalveolar lavage using the conventional PCR-based IS1111 gene, which is the first case of DNA detection in this type of sample (Rozental et al., 2012Rozental T, Mascarenhas LF, Rozenbaum R, Gomes R, Mattos GS, Magno CC, et al. Coxiella burnetii, the agent of Q fever in Brazil: its hidden role in seronegative arthritis and the importance of molecular diagnosis based on the repetitive element IS1111 associated with the transposase gene. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 2012; 107(5): 695-697. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0074-02762012000500021. PMid:22850965.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0074-02762012...
). In 2013, 51 heart valve samples from surgical patients were collected in Rio de Janeiro, of which one sample was positive for C. burnetii by conventional PCR (Lamas et al., 2013Lamas CC, Ramos RG, Lopes GQ, Santos MS, Golebiovski WF, Weksler C, et al. Bartonella and Coxiella infective endocarditis in Brazil: molecular evidence from excised valves from a cardiac surgery referral center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1998 to 2009. Int J Infect Dis 2013; 17(1): e65-e66. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2012.10.009. PMid:23219032.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2012.10...
). Two years later, in São Paulo, an investigation was published of 221 patients with endocarditis, 1.8% of whom were seropositive with an endpoint titer of 800 (phase I) by the IFA test. In addition, 51 of these 221 patients were culture-negative for C. burnetii and were evaluated by immunohistochemistry of the heart valves for C. burnetii, resulting in 7.8% positivity (Siciliano et al., 2015Siciliano RF, Castelli JB, Mansur AJ, Santos FP, Colombo S, Nascimento EM, et al. Bartonella spp. and Coxiella burnetii Associated with Community-Acquired, Culture-Negative Endocarditis, Brazil. Emerg Infect Dis 2015; 21(8): 1429-1432. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2108.140343. PMid:26197233.
http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2108.140343...
).

In 2016, the presence of C. burnetii was investigated after an outbreak of dengue in Rio de Janeiro, where the first molecularly identified Brazilian case of QF was reported in 2008. Conventional PCR (using primers targeting the IS1111 transposase elements) was performed on the blood of 272 patients with clinical suspicion of dengue, in which C. burnetii DNA was found in 3.3% of these patients. The authors concluded that despite most samples being negative in the molecular test, the diagnosis of QF cannot be excluded, and that the number of infected individuals is probably much higher than the finding because only the molecular analysis of the blood was performed and there was not enough sample for serological analysis (Mares-Guia et al., 2016Mares-Guia MAMM, Rozental T, Guterres A, Ferreira MS, Botticini RG, Terra AKC, et al. Molecular Identification of Q Fever in Patients with a Suspected Diagnosis of Dengue in Brazil in 2013–2014. Am J Trop Med Hyg 2016; 94(5): 1090-1094. http://dx.doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.15-0575. PMid:26928831.
http://dx.doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.15-0575...
). In 2021, in Minas Gerais, 437 patients suspected and later confirmed to be negative for dengue were evaluated, 4.8% of whom were seropositive for anti-C. burnetii antibodies on the IFA test, with titers ranging between 64 and 128 (phase I and phase II). This study showed that rural residence was a risk factor for QF in that region (Meurer et al., 2022Meurer IR, Silva MR, Silva MVF, de Lima Duré AÍ, Adelino TÉR, da Costa AVB, et al. Seroprevalence estimate and risk factors for Coxiella burnetii infections among humans in a highly urbanised Brazilian state. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 2022; 116(3): 261-269. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/trstmh/trab113. PMid:34308483.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/trstmh/trab113...
).

In domestic animals, research is more related to the epidemiology of the disease in the regions studied and its possible impact on public health. These studies began in 1955 in São Paulo, when Valle et al. (1955)Valle LAR, Brandão H, Christovão DA, D’Apice M. Investigações sobre a febre Q em São Paulo – II – Estudo em tratadores de gado e em bovinos. Arq Fac Hig Saude Publica Univ Sao Paulo 1955; 9(1/2): 167-180. http://dx.doi.org/10.11606/issn.2358-792X.v9i1-2p167-180.
http://dx.doi.org/10.11606/issn.2358-792...
, in addition to evaluating cattle handlers, also tested 171 cattle, obtaining a result of 14% of these animals being positive for anti-C. burnetii antibodies, with endpoint titers varying between 16 and 256 (no phase I or phase II specification). After 34 years, a study was conducted with 76 goats from five states in the northeast region, all of which were negative (Brown et al., 1989Brown CC, Olander HJ, Castro AE, Behymer DE. Prevalence of antibodies in goats in north-eastern Brazil to selected viral and bacterial agents. Trop Anim Health Prod 1989; 21(3): 167-169. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF02250827. PMid:2552630.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF02250827...
).

In Rio de Janeiro, a study was carried out with 14 dogs, 1 cat, 10 goats, 3 sheep and 2 horses, in addition to bodily secretions (milk, vaginal swab, and anal swab) from goats. Of these, the anti-C. burnetii antibodies was observed through the IFA test (phase I and phase II) in two (14.3%) dogs with endpoint titers of 64, five (50%) goats with endpoint titers ranging from 64 to 128, and two (66.7%) sheep with endpoint titers of 64, as well as bacterial DNA in six (60%) milk samples, two (14.3%) dog blood samples, and two (20%) goat blood samples (Mares-Guia et al., 2014Mares-Guia MAMM, Rozental T, Guterres A, Gomes R, Almeida DN, Moreira NS, et al. Molecular identification of the agent of Q fever – Coxiella burnetii – in domestic animals in State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rev Soc Bras Med Trop 2014; 47(2): 231-234. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0037-8682-0076-2013. PMid:24861300.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0037-8682-0076...
). In 2017, the presence of 1.96% of anti-C. burnetii antibodies using the IFA test (no phase I or phase II specification) from 153 sheep studied in Piauí State with titers ranging from 64 to 4,096 was confirmed (Guimarães et al., 2017Guimarães MF, Araujo AC, Freire DP, Machado DMR, Martins NNVM, Moraes-Filho J, et al. Investigação sorológica de Rickettsia rickettsii e Coxiella burnetii em caprinos e ovinos no entorno do Parque Nacional da Serra das Confusões, Piauí. Pesq Vet Bras 2017; 37(6): 555-560. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s0100-736x2017000600004.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s0100-736x2017...
). In 2018, seropositivity of 55.12% for C. burnetii among 312 goats was reported, in Alagoas State, through the ELISA test, with 65.7% of the serorreactives presenting high titers (≥ELISA++). Furthermore, bacterial DNA was detected by nested PCR (using specific primers to amplify the IS1111 gene) in 8.7% of 23 goat placenta samples, which were also seroreactive (Oliveira et al., 2018Oliveira JMB, Rozental T, Lemos ERS, Forneas D, Ortega-Mora LM, Porto WJN, et al. Coxiella burnetii in dairy goats with a history of reproductive disorders in Brazil. Acta Trop 2018; 183: 19-22. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica.2018.04.010. PMid:29621535.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica....
), and 2.2% and 2.1% of anti-C. burnetii antibodies, by IFA test (no phase I or phase II specification), from 412 goats and 403 sheep from Pernambuco, respectively, with endpoint titers ranging from 64 to 65,536 (Souza et al., 2018Souza EAR, Castro EMS, Oliveira GMB, Azevedo SS, Peixoto RM, Labruna MB, et al. Serological diagnosis and risk factors for Coxiella burnetii in goats and sheep in a semi-arid region of Northeastern Brazil. Rev Bras Parasitol Vet 2018; 27(4): 514-520. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1984-296120180086. PMid:30517422.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1984-29612018...
). In 2019, in the evaluation of C. burnetii associated with bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV), bovine herpesvirus (BoHV), Leptospira spp., Neospora caninum, Toxoplasma gondii and Trypanosoma vivax in reproductive disorders in cattle originating from São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Goiás, 13.7% of 102 cattle evaluated presented anti-C. burnetii antibodies, with high titers reaching 131,072 (phase I). Among these seropositive animals, 10% were from Goiás (n=20), 12.5% from São Paulo (n=32), 17.5% from Minas Gerais (n=40), and 10% from Mato Grosso do Sul (n=10) (Zanatto et al., 2019aZanatto DCS, Gatto IRH, Labruna MB, Jusi MMG, Samara SI, Machado RZ, et al. Coxiella burnetii associated with BVDV (Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus), BoHV (Bovine Herpesvirus), Leptospira spp., Neospora caninum, Toxoplasma gondii and Trypanosoma vivax in reproductive disorders in cattle. Rev Bras Parasitol Vet 2019a; 28(2): 245-257. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1984-29612019032. PMid:31215610.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1984-29612019...
).

In the Northeast region, a low rate of seropositivity to C. burnetii was found in the Sertão region (Souza et al., 2018Souza EAR, Castro EMS, Oliveira GMB, Azevedo SS, Peixoto RM, Labruna MB, et al. Serological diagnosis and risk factors for Coxiella burnetii in goats and sheep in a semi-arid region of Northeastern Brazil. Rev Bras Parasitol Vet 2018; 27(4): 514-520. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1984-296120180086. PMid:30517422.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1984-29612018...
), in contrast to the high rate of seropositivity in the Agreste region (Oliveira et al., 2018Oliveira JMB, Rozental T, Lemos ERS, Forneas D, Ortega-Mora LM, Porto WJN, et al. Coxiella burnetii in dairy goats with a history of reproductive disorders in Brazil. Acta Trop 2018; 183: 19-22. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica.2018.04.010. PMid:29621535.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica....
). Both have a semi-arid climate; however, Sertão has higher temperatures and lower humidity than Agreste (IBGE, 2012Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística – IBGE. Manual Técnico da Vegetação Brasileira [online]. Rio de Janeiro: IBGE; 2012 [cited 2022 May 12]. Available from: https://www.terrabrasilis.org.br/ecotecadigital/pdf/manual-tecnico-da-vegetacao-brasileira.pdf
https://www.terrabrasilis.org.br/ecoteca...
; Moura et al., 2007Moura MSB, Galvincio JD, Brito LTL, Souza LSB, Sá IIS, Silva TGF. Clima e água de chuva no semi-árido. In: Brito LTL, Moura MSB, Gama GFB. Potencialidades da água de chuva no Semi-árido brasileiro. Petrolina: Embrapa Semi-Árido; 2007. p. 35-59.). Whether the temperature influenced these cases remains to be investigated since hot and dry climatic conditions could facilitate dispersion of the bacteria (Nusinovici et al., 2015Nusinovici S, Frössling J, Widgren S, Beaudeau F, Lindberg A. Q fever infection in dairy cattle herds: increased risk with high wind speed and low precipitation. Epidemiol Infect 2015; 143(15): 3316-3326. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0950268814003926. PMid:25783480.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0950268814003...
). In the Southeast region, cattle from 54 cities in the state of São Paulo sent to the slaughterhouse were evaluated in 2020. Of these 54 cities, 83.3% had at least one seropositive animal and 23.8% from 1,515 samples collected. Furthermore, seropositive samples were subjected to real-time PCR based on the IS1111 gene, and 12.2% of serum samples were positive (Mioni et al., 2020aMioni MSR, Costa FB, Ribeiro BLD, Teixeira WSR, Pelicia VC, Labruna MB, et al. Coxiella burnetii in slaughterhouses in Brazil: a public health concern. PLoS One 2020a; 15(10): e0241246. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0241246. PMid:33125388.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0...
). Furthermore, in 2020, anti-C. burnetii antibodies were detected by IFA in 1% of 200 beef cattle in a study related to co-seropositivity among tick-transmitted agents in five different farms located in the central region of the Pantanal Sul-Matogrossense (Ramos et al., 2020Ramos IAS, Mello VVC, Mendes NS, Zanatto DCS, Campos JBV, Alves JVA, et al. Serological occurrence for tick-borne agents in beef cattle in the Brazilian Pantanal. Rev Bras Parasitol Vet 2020; 29(1): e014919. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1984-29612020007. PMid:32267389.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1984-29612020...
). Seroreactivity to C. burnetii was observed in 5% (endpoint titers 128) and 4% (titers 256–512) of domestic dogs from Pernambuco and Ceará, respectively, using the IFA test, no phase I or phase II specification (Oliveira et al., 2020Oliveira GMB, Silva IWG, Evaristo AMCF, Serpa MCA, Campos ANS, Dutra V, et al. Tick-borne pathogens in dogs, wild small mammals and their ectoparasites in the semi-arid Caatinga biome, northeastern Brazil. Ticks Tick Borne Dis 2020; 11(4): 101409. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2020.101409. PMid:32111546.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2020....
). In 2022, a tissue evaluation study of aborted fetuses and possible co-infections was published, in which the DNA of C. burnetii was detected by real-time PCR targeting the IS1111 gene in 9.2% of 76 fetuses studied in São Paulo (Mioni et al., 2022Mioni MSR, Henker LC, Teixeira WSR, Lorenzett MP, Labruna MB, Pavarini SP, et al. Molecular detection of Coxiella burnetii in aborted bovine fetuses in Brazil. Acta Trop 2022; 227: 106258. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica.2021.106258. PMid:34826384.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica....
).

Studies in wild animals began in 2017 when 131 rodents belonging to 18 species were evaluated in Rio de Janeiro, with 4.6% positivity by conventional PCR targeting the IS1111 gene in four species of rodents (Akodon cursor, Mus musculus, Oxymyxterus dasytrichus and Oligoryzomys nigripes) (Rozental et al., 2017Rozental T, Ferreira MS, Guterres A, Mares-Guia MA, Teixeira BR, Gonçalves J, et al. Zoonotic pathogens in Atlantic Forest wild rodents in Brazil: Bartonella and Coxiella infections. Acta Trop 2017; 168: 64-73. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica.2017.01.003. PMid:28077317.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica....
). Subsequently, Ferreira et al. (2018)Ferreira MS, Guterres A, Rozental T, Novaes RLM, Vilar EM, Oliveira RC, et al. Coxiella and Bartonella spp. in bats (Chiroptera) captured in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest biome. BMC Vet Res 2018; 14(1): 279. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12917-018-1603-0. PMid:30200947.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12917-018-160...
evaluated 119 bats belonging to 21 species from the states of Rio de Janeiro, Bahia, and Santa Catarina, and found C. burnetii DNA in 3.4% by conventional PCR targeting the IS1111 gene in Artibeus lituratus and Artibeus fimbriatus, in Rio de Janeiro and Santa Catarina. In addition, in 2019, a study was conducted on free-living deer in the states of Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás, São Paulo, and Paraná in which anti-C. burnetii antibodies were found in 5.32% of 169 animals by the IFA test (phase I), with titers ranging from 256 to 16,384, in the regions of Mato Grosso do Sul and São Paulo. The seropositive species were Mazama gouazoubira and Blastocerus dichotomus (Zanatto et al., 2019bZanatto DCS, Duarte JMB, Labruna MB, Tasso JB, Calchi AC, Machado RZ, et al. Evidence of exposure to Coxiella burnetii in neotropical free-living cervids in South America. Acta Trop 2019b; 197: 105037. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica.2019.05.028. PMid:31128095.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica....
). In 2020, in the regions of Pernambuco and Ceará, one rodent (Wiedomys pyrrhorhinos) and one marsupial (Didelphis albiventris) were seroreactive to C. burnetii at endpoint titers of 128 and 4,096, respectively, by IFA test, no phase I or phase II specification (Oliveira et al., 2020Oliveira GMB, Silva IWG, Evaristo AMCF, Serpa MCA, Campos ANS, Dutra V, et al. Tick-borne pathogens in dogs, wild small mammals and their ectoparasites in the semi-arid Caatinga biome, northeastern Brazil. Ticks Tick Borne Dis 2020; 11(4): 101409. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2020.101409. PMid:32111546.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2020....
). Finally, in 2021, Mato Grosso do Sul, Ikeda et al. (2021)Ikeda P, Torres JM, Placa AJV, Mello VVC, Lourenço EC, Herrera HM, et al. Molecular survey of Anaplasmataceae agents and Coxiellaceae in non-hematophagous bats and associated ectoparasites from Brazil. Parasitologia 2021; 1(4): 197-209. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/parasitologia1040021.
http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/parasitologia1...
sampled 135 non-hematophagous bats and did not find real-time PCR positivity for C. burnetii based on the IS1111 gene. Therefore, bats do not act as important hosts in epidemiology or C. burnetii in Brazil. Recently, C. burnetii DNA was not detected in blood and spleen samples from 397 free-living Xenarthra mammals (233 sloths, 107 anteaters, and 57 armadillos) in five Brazilian states (Mato Grosso do Sul, São Paulo, Pará, Rondônia, and Rio Grande do Sul) using a qPCR assay based on the IS1111 gene (Oliveira et al., 2022Oliveira LB, Calchi AC, Vultão JG, Yogui DR, Kluyber D, Alves MH, et al. Molecular investigation of haemotropic mycoplasmas and Coxiella burnetii in free-living Xenarthra mammals from Brazil, with evidence of new hemoplasma species. Transbound Emerg Dis 2022;ahead of print. https://doi.org/10.1111/tbed.14523. PMID: 35298081.
https://doi.org/10.1111/tbed.14523...
).

Studies focusing on food were only published in 2018, when C. burnetii DNA was detected in 9.43% of 53 artisanal cheese samples from the agroindustries of the Serro microregion, Minas Gerais, by nested PCR to amplify the IS1111 gene (Rozental et al., 2018bRozental T, Faria LS, Silva MR, Ribeiro JB, Araújo FR, Costa RR, et al. Ocorrência de Coxiella burnetii em queijo Minas artesanal de leite cru: resultados preliminares de um preocupante problema de saúde pública. Rev Méd Minas Gerais 2018b; 28(Suppl 5):85-91. http://www.dx.doi.org/10.5935/2238-3182.20180122.
https://doi.org/http://www.dx.doi.org/10...
; 2020Rozental T, Faria LS, Forneas D, Guterres A, Ribeiro JB, Araújo FR, et al. First molecular detection of Coxiella burnetii in Brazilian artisanal cheese: a neglected food safety hazard in ready-to-eat raw-milk product. Braz J Infect Dis 2020; 24(3): 208-212. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bjid.2020.05.003. PMid:32563680.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bjid.2020.05...
). Subsequently, Mioni et al. (2019)Mioni MSR, Ribeiro BLD, Peres MG, Teixeira WSR, Pelícia VC, Motta RG, et al. Real-time quantitative PCR-based detection of Coxiella burnetii in unpasteurized cow’s milk sold for human consumption. Zoonoses Public Health 2019; 66(6): 695-700. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/zph.12609. PMid:31173477.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/zph.12609...
evaluated 112 bulk cow milk samples from Goiás and found C. burnetii DNA in 3.6% of these samples using real-time PCR targeting the IS1111 gene. Finally, Nascimento et al. (2021)Nascimento CF, de Mello VVC, Machado RZ, André MR, Bürger KP. Molecular detection of coxiella burnetii in unstandardized minas artisanal cheese marketed in Southeastern Brazil. Acta Trop 2021; 220: 105942. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica.2021.105942. PMid:33951421.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica....
found the bacterial DNA in 4.6% of 87 samples of artisanal cheese in Minas Gerais using real-time PCR based on the IS1111 gene.

For being an easily transmissible bacterium, what draws attention in most of the epidemiological investigation studies of C. burnetii is the low serological percentage in herds (usually only one or two seropositive animals), as herds represent animals that are always reared together in a farm of goat and sheep (Souza et al., 2018Souza EAR, Castro EMS, Oliveira GMB, Azevedo SS, Peixoto RM, Labruna MB, et al. Serological diagnosis and risk factors for Coxiella burnetii in goats and sheep in a semi-arid region of Northeastern Brazil. Rev Bras Parasitol Vet 2018; 27(4): 514-520. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1984-296120180086. PMid:30517422.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1984-29612018...
). Why would this happen in a situation in which the spread of the bacteria could be facilitated? Another study in the Pernambuco region, where risk factors for the disease were investigated, reported more seropositive goats and sheep but with a low percentage rate (unpublished data for Souza et al.). Anti-C. burnetii antibodies can be detected in the sorologic analysis between 2 and 3 weeks after exposure (Roest et al., 2013Roest HI, Post J, van Gelderen B, van Zijderveld FG, Rebel JM. Q fever in pregnant goats: humoral and cellular immune responses. Vet Res 2013; 44(1): 67. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1297-9716-44-67. PMid:23915213.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1297-9716-44-6...
), and the presence of a high titer is suggestive of recent exposure. But some animals do not appear seroconverted, and others shed organisms before developing antibodies (The Center for Food Security and Public Health, 2017The Center for Food Security and Public Health. Q Fever [online]. 2017 [cited 2022 Jan 18]. Available from: https://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets/pdfs/q_fever.pdf
https://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets...
). Oliveira et al. (2018)Oliveira JMB, Rozental T, Lemos ERS, Forneas D, Ortega-Mora LM, Porto WJN, et al. Coxiella burnetii in dairy goats with a history of reproductive disorders in Brazil. Acta Trop 2018; 183: 19-22. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica.2018.04.010. PMid:29621535.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica....
found seropositivity above 50% using a commercial ELISA test to detect the presence of anti-C. burnetii phase I and II antigen IgG antibodies in goats, differentiating them from others that use IFA or complement fixation (CF). In addition, Mares-Guia et al. (2014)Mares-Guia MAMM, Rozental T, Guterres A, Gomes R, Almeida DN, Moreira NS, et al. Molecular identification of the agent of Q fever – Coxiella burnetii – in domestic animals in State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rev Soc Bras Med Trop 2014; 47(2): 231-234. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0037-8682-0076-2013. PMid:24861300.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0037-8682-0076...
found a relatively high rate of 50% in goats and 66.6% in sheep using the IFA test; however, few animals were evaluated (10 and 3, respectively). In a comparative study of the IFA, ELISA, in goats, the authors concluded that the IFA test had a high sensitivity and specificity and should be used as a reference diagnostic test for the detection of antibodies against C. burnetii in goats and other animals (Muleme et al., 2016Muleme M, Stenos J, Vincent G, Campbell A, Graves S, Warner S, et al. Bayesian validation of the indirect immunofluorescence assay and its superiority to the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and the complement fixation test for detecting antibodies against Coxiella burnetii in goat serum. Clin Vaccine Immunol 2016; 23(6): 507-514. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CVI.00724-15. PMid:27122484.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CVI.00724-15...
). However, ELISA has a greater and faster facility for testing large numbers of samples (Muleme et al., 2016Muleme M, Stenos J, Vincent G, Campbell A, Graves S, Warner S, et al. Bayesian validation of the indirect immunofluorescence assay and its superiority to the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and the complement fixation test for detecting antibodies against Coxiella burnetii in goat serum. Clin Vaccine Immunol 2016; 23(6): 507-514. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CVI.00724-15. PMid:27122484.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CVI.00724-15...
).

Bacterial DNA can be detected in the blood by PCR within 2 weeks of infection (Wegdam-Blans et al., 2012Wegdam-Blans MCA, Wielders CCH, Meekelenkamp J, Korbeeck JM, Herremans T, Tjhie HT, et al. Evaluation of commonly used serological tests for detection of Coxiella burnetii antibodies in well-defined acute and follow-up sera. Clin Vaccine Immunol 2012; 19(7): 1110-1115. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CVI.05581-11. PMid:22623653.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CVI.05581-11...
). Therefore, caution should be exercised with the interpretation of results obtained through this technique, after which the sensitivity can rapidly decrease and lead to false negatives because they are below the detection limit (Miller et al., 2021aMiller HK, Priestley RA, Kersh GJQ. Fever: a troubling disease and a challenging diagnosis. Clin Microbiol Newsl 2021a; 43(13): 109-118. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinmicnews.2021.06.003.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clinmicnews....
). Infected animals shed the infectious agent predominantly through feces, urine, saliva, vaginal discharge, the placenta, and amniotic fluid (Abiri et al., 2019Abiri Z, Khalili M, Kostoulas P, Sharifi H, Rad M, Babaei H. Bayesian estimation of sensitivity and specificity of a PCR method to detect Coxiella burnetii in milk and vaginal secretions in sheep and goat samples. J Dairy Sci 2019; 102(6): 4954-4959. http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2018-15233. PMid:31005328.
http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2018-15233...
). However, reproductive secretions are more important, being the main choice for detection of the pathogen DNA and play a more prominent role in the transmission and spread of bacteria (Berri et al., 2000Berri M, Laroucau K, Rodolakis A. The detection of Coxiella burnetii from ovine genital swabs, milk and fecal samples by the use of a single touchdown polymerase chain reaction. Vet Microbiol 2000; 72(3-4): 285-293. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0378-1135(99)00178-9. PMid:10727838.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0378-1135(99)...
). It has been observed that there is greater sensitivity in the detection of C. burnetii in vaginal swab samples, whereas specificity is greater in milk samples from goats and sheep (Abiri et al., 2019Abiri Z, Khalili M, Kostoulas P, Sharifi H, Rad M, Babaei H. Bayesian estimation of sensitivity and specificity of a PCR method to detect Coxiella burnetii in milk and vaginal secretions in sheep and goat samples. J Dairy Sci 2019; 102(6): 4954-4959. http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2018-15233. PMid:31005328.
http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2018-15233...
). Most studies have chosen the insertion sequence of the IS1111 gene as the target for detection of C. burnetii by PCR because it is a repeating element of multiple copies with 7–110 copies per isolate, allowing a greater sensitivity of the technique (Sahu et al., 2020Sahu R, Rawool DB, Vinod VK, Malik SVS, Barbuddhe SB. Current approaches for the detection of Coxiella burnetii infection in humans and animals. J Microbiol Methods 2020; 179: 106087. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mimet.2020.106087. PMid:33086105.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mimet.2020.1...
). Studies have recommended that serological testing in combination with PCR of samples most suitable for the detection of C. burnetii is indispensable for the definitive diagnosis of acute QF and for estimating the true rate of infection at the herd or population level (Schneeberger et al., 2010Schneeberger PM, Hermans MHA, van Hannen EJ, Schellekens JJA, Leenders ACAP, Wever PC. Real-time PCR with serum samples is indispensable for early diagnosis of acute Q fever. Clin Vaccine Immunol 2010; 17(2): 286-290. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CVI.00454-09. PMid:20032219.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CVI.00454-09...
).

One hypothesis for the generally low positivity for C. burnetii in Brazil is the low virulence of local strains; therefore, systematic typing can be performed to aid the identification and monitoring of the virulent strains (Mioni et al., 2020bMioni MSR, Sidi-Boumedine K, Dalanezi FM, Joaquim SF, Denadai S, Teixeira WSR, et al. New Genotypes of Coxiella burnetii circulating in Brazil and Argentina. Pathogens 2020b; 9(1): 30. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/pathogens9010030. PMid:31905637.
http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/pathogens90100...
). It was observed that there are new strains of C. burnetii circulating in some parts of the country, which may have been introduced by trade in animals and animal products. Do the strains identified by Mioni et al. (2020b)Mioni MSR, Sidi-Boumedine K, Dalanezi FM, Joaquim SF, Denadai S, Teixeira WSR, et al. New Genotypes of Coxiella burnetii circulating in Brazil and Argentina. Pathogens 2020b; 9(1): 30. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/pathogens9010030. PMid:31905637.
http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/pathogens90100...
match those detected in the northern hemisphere? This highlights the importance of evaluation of the virulence of these strains of different lineages in QF cases to understand how the disease occurs in the country. This study elucidates the role of genomic content and virulence of the bacterium (Mioni et al., 2020bMioni MSR, Sidi-Boumedine K, Dalanezi FM, Joaquim SF, Denadai S, Teixeira WSR, et al. New Genotypes of Coxiella burnetii circulating in Brazil and Argentina. Pathogens 2020b; 9(1): 30. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/pathogens9010030. PMid:31905637.
http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/pathogens90100...
).

Final Remarks

In this study, we showed that there is a circulation of C. burnetii in Brazil. However, further studies are needed to understand the dynamics of this disease in the country.

In this sense, what would justify the finding of a few infected animals in the herd since the main transmission is through the aerogenic route? Are ambient temperature and humidity directly related to agent maintenance and transmission? Owing to the severity of the disease, should competent institutions make it compulsorily notifiable in humans?

In addition, serological and molecular tests (in samples that are more likely to lead to detection of the pathogen even in asymptomatic animals, such as vaginal swabs and milk samples) should be employed in conjunction, as the presence of the bacterium may be being underestimated, and thus observe a reliable diagnosis, especially in epidemiological studies. Also, a genotyping test could be applied to obtain better knowledge of the strains at different locations where QF was studied.

Differential diagnosis of reproductive disorders is recommended in bovine herds, which can occur by BVDV, BoHV, Leptospira spp., N. caninum, T. gondii and T. vivax (Zanatto et al., 2019bZanatto DCS, Duarte JMB, Labruna MB, Tasso JB, Calchi AC, Machado RZ, et al. Evidence of exposure to Coxiella burnetii in neotropical free-living cervids in South America. Acta Trop 2019b; 197: 105037. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica.2019.05.028. PMid:31128095.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica....
), and in goat and sheep herds, which include infectious agents such as T. gondii, Chlamydophila abortus, Brucella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter spp., Salmonella spp., Leptospira spp. and N. caninum (Pereira et al., 2013Pereira MF, Mota RA, Peixoto RM, Piatti RM. Estudo de casos de aborto em caprinos e ovinos no estado de Pernambuco, Brasil. Ciênc Vet Tróp 2013; 16(1-3): 18-30.; Gazzonis et al., 2016Gazzonis AL, Alvarez Garcia G, Zanzani SA, Ortega Mora LM, Invernizzi A, Manfredi MT. Neospora caninum infection in sheep and goats from north-eastern Italy and associated risk factors. Small Rumin Res 2016; 140: 7-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.smallrumres.2016.05.010.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.smallrumres....
).

Although in some regions of the country, the expected frequency related to infection for C. burnetii, a pathogen of high importance and transmissibility, was not found, it does not reduce the risk of occurrence of the disease, and it is necessary to include the diagnosis in routine practice to promote preventive measures and adequate treatment.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the Fundação de Amparo à Ciência e Tecnologia do Estado de Pernambuco (FACEPE) for financial support to E.A.R.S. (IBPG-1014-5.05/17). M.R.A., M.B.L. and M.C.H. are recipients of research fellowships from CNPq (grant numbers: 303701/2021-8, 301641/2019-6 and 314019/2021-9, respectively).

  • How to cite: Souza EAR, André MR, Labruna MB, Horta MC. Q fever and coxiellosis in Brazil: an underestimated disease? A brief review. Braz J Vet Parasitol 2022; 31(3): e009822. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1984-29612022051

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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    26 Sept 2022
  • Date of issue
    2022

History

  • Received
    30 June 2022
  • Accepted
    30 Aug 2022
Colégio Brasileiro de Parasitologia Veterinária FCAV/UNESP - Departamento de Patologia Veterinária, Via de acesso Prof. Paulo Donato Castellane s/n, Zona Rural, , 14884-900 Jaboticabal - SP, Brasil, Fone: (16) 3209-7100 RAMAL 7934 - Jaboticabal - SP - Brazil
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