Long-term persistence of Coxiella burnetii in the host after primary Q fever

Epidemiol Infect. 2000 Jun;124(3):543-9. doi: 10.1017/s0950268899003763.


After a primary infection Coxiella burnetii may persist covertly in animals and recrudesce at parturition to be shed in the products of conception and the milk. Similar latent persistence and recrudescence occurs in man: namely, infection of placenta, heart valve or mural endocardium, bone or liver. The numbers of organisms, their viability and cellular form, and the underlying organ sites of latent infection for the coxiella are obscure. During investigations of 29 patients with a chronic sequel to acute Q fever, the post-Q fever fatigue syndrome (QFS) [1-3], sensitive conventional and TaqMan-based PCR revealed low levels of C. burnetii DNA in blood mononuclear cells (5/29; 17%), thin needle liver biopsies (2/14; 14%) and, notably, in bone marrow aspirates (13/20; 65%). Irrespective of the ultimate significance of coxiella persistence for QFS, the detection of C. burnetii genomic DNA in bone marrow several years after a primary infection unveils a new pathological dimension for Q fever.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bone Marrow / microbiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Coxiella burnetii / genetics
  • Coxiella burnetii / isolation & purification*
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • DNA, Bacterial / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prognosis
  • Q Fever / genetics
  • Q Fever / pathology*


  • DNA, Bacterial