Serological survey of Bartonella spp., Borrelia burgdorferi, Brucella spp., Coxiella burnetii, Francisella tularensis, Leptospira spp., Echinococcus, Hanta-, TBE- and XMR-virus infection in employees of two forestry enterprises in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, 2011-2013

Int J Med Microbiol. 2015 Oct;305(7):652-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmm.2015.08.015. Epub 2015 Aug 21.


We initiated a survey to collect basic data on the frequency and regional distribution of various zoonoses in 722 employees of forestry enterprises in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) from 2011 to 2013. Exposures associated with seropositivity were identified to give insight into the possible risk factors for infection with each pathogen. 41.2% of participants were found to be seropositive for anti-Bartonella IgG, 30.6% for anti-Borrelia burgdorferi IgG, 14.2% for anti-Leptospira IgG, 6.5% for anti-Coxiella burnetii IgG, 6.0% for anti-Hantavirus IgG, 4.0% for anti-Francisella tularensis IgG, 3.4% for anti-TBE-virus IgG, 1.7% for anti-Echinococcus IgG, 0.0% for anti-Brucella IgG and anti-XMRV IgG. Participants seropositive for B. burgdorferi were 3.96 times more likely to be professional forestry workers (univariable analysis: OR 3.96; 95% CI 2.60-6.04; p<0.001); and participants seropositive for Hantavirus 3.72 times more likely (univariable analysis: OR 3.72; 95% CI 1.44-9.57; p=0.007). This study found a surprisingly high percentage of participants seropositive for anti-B. henselae IgG and for anti-F. tularensis IgG. The relatively high seroprevalence for anti-Leptospira IgG seen in this study could be related to living conditions rather than to exposure at work. No specific risk for exposure to C. burnetii and Echinococcus was identified, indicating that neither forestry workers nor office workers represent a risk population and that NRW is not a typical endemic area. Forestry workers appear to have higher risk for contact with B. burgdorferi-infected ticks and a regionally diverse risk for acquiring Hantavirus-infection. The regional epidemiology of zoonoses is without question of great importance for public health. Knowledge of the regional risk factors facilitates the development of efficient prevention strategies and the implementation of such prevention measures in a sustainable manner.

Keywords: Forest; Occupational exposure; Prevalence; Risk; Seroepidemiologic studies; Tick-borne diseases; Zoonotic infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood*
  • Antibodies, Helminth / blood*
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Bacteria / immunology
  • Echinococcus / immunology
  • Female
  • Forestry*
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Viruses / immunology
  • Young Adult
  • Zoonoses / epidemiology*


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antibodies, Helminth
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G