The zoonotic disease Q fever is caused by a rickettsia, Coxiella burnetii. The primary reservoirs for this bacterium are domesticated livestock such as cattle, sheep, and goats. The bacterium may be transmitted by ticks or through exposure to the urine, feces, milk, or amniotic fluid of an infected animal. In humans, the primary route of infection is through inhalation of contaminated farmyard aerosols. It is, therefore, largely an occupational disease of farmers. Humans are acutely sensitive to C. burnetii—the infective dose is estimated to be just a few cells. In addition, the organism is hardy and can survive in a dry environment for an extended time. Symptoms associated with acute Q fever include high fever, headache, coughing, pneumonia, and general malaise. In a small number of patients (less than 5%), the condition may become chronic, often leading to endocarditis, which may be fatal.
Diagnosing rickettsial infection by cultivation in the laboratory is both difficult and hazardous because of the easy aerosolization of the bacteria, so PCR and ELISA are commonly used. Doxycycline is the first-line drug to treat acute Q fever. In chronic Q fever, doxycycline is often paired with hydroxychloroquine.
Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology