Neurological involvement in acute Q fever: a report of 29 cases and review of the literature

Arch Intern Med. 2002 Mar 25;162(6):693-700. doi: 10.1001/archinte.162.6.693.


Background: Q fever is characterized by its clinical polymorphism; neurological involvement has occasionally been described. In the course of acute Q fever, neurological manifestations may include aseptic meningitis, encephalitis or encephalomyelitis, and peripheral neuropathy.

Objective: To review and evaluate cases of acute Q fever with neurological symptoms diagnosed in our laboratory.

Methods: A total of 1269 acute Q fever cases were recorded from January 1985 to January 2000 in our laboratory and were reviewed for neurological complications. Patients were considered to have acute Q fever when serological procedures showed Coxiella burnetii phase II titers of 1:200 or higher for IgG and 1:50 or higher for IgM. Those patients who underwent a lumbar puncture for cerebrospinal fluid analysis or who had abnormal neurological symptoms were selected for this study. We describe the clinical, epidemiological, and biological features of these cases. We also review the literature and compare our cases with those previously reported.

Results: Among the 45 patients selected, 14 were excluded because they had normal cerebrospinal fluid and no neurological symptoms. Two were excluded because there were no clinical or epidemiological data. Three major clinical syndromes were observed: meningoencephalitis or encephalitis in 17 cases; meningitis in 8; and myelitis and peripheral neuropathy in 4. Encephalitic signs were not specific, but behavior or psychiatric disturbances were common.

Conclusions: Q fever should be included in the differential diagnosis of acute neurological disease in a patient with a fever. Serological testing should be performed in cases of meningoencephalitis, lymphocytic meningitis, and peripheral neuropathy, including Guillain-Barré syndrome and myelitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Central Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / complications*
  • Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Q Fever / complications*
  • Q Fever / physiopathology*