The serologic prevalence of Q fever (Coxiella burnetii) complement-fixing antibodies in the Peninsular bighorn sheep of Southern California

Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2006 Aug;75(2):315-7.


Q fever is a rare illness in the Southern California desert. During the past 34 years only 6 patients have been diagnosed with the disease at the Eisenhower Medical Center, a referral center for much of the desert and surrounding mountains. In all but 2 instances, Q fever was identified in patients who have been in contact with imported domestic sheep who are brought to the desert to graze and lamb in the fall and winter. The sheep are sent back to Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana in the spring. With frequent infection by Coxiella burnetii established in domestic sheep, we elected to study the prevalence of complement fixing antibodies to Coxiella burnetii in native bighorn sheep who reside in the lower levels of the mountains surrounding the desert. From 1992 to 1999, of 268 serum samples drawn from male and female lambs and adult sheep, 27 tested positive (10%), which is strikingly low when compared with Dall sheep in Alaska (12 of 15), kangaroos, wild rabbits, and brown rats. Because changes have been made in Peninsular bighorn sheep habitat since the animals were listed as endangered in 1998, further follow-up in Q fever serology testing will be of interest.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Complement Fixation Tests / veterinary
  • Coxiella burnetii / immunology*
  • Coxiella burnetii / isolation & purification
  • Female
  • Male
  • Q Fever / epidemiology
  • Q Fever / veterinary*
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Sheep Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Sheep, Bighorn*


  • Antibodies, Bacterial