[First Isolation of Coxiella burnetii in Turkey from a Patient with Endocarditis; Antigen Production and Phase Change Study]

Mikrobiyol Bul. 2019 Jul;53(3):274-284. doi: 10.5578/mb.68336.
[Article in Turkish]


Coxiella burnetii is the causative agent of Q fever, a zoonotic infection. The bacteria is a gram-negative, pleomorphic, coccobacilli and capable to survive and proliferate within the host cell's phagolysosome. There are two morphological cell types of C.burnetii including small and large cell variants. C.burnetii is divided into phase I and phase II serologically variants according to LPS structure in the cell wall. Phase I is the natural phase found in infected animals or humans and is highly infectious. Phase II is not very infectious and could be obtained only in laboratories after serial passages in cell cultures or embryonated egg cultures. Q fever can be asymptomatic (in 50% of the cases), acute or chronic. Major presentations of acute Q fever are flu-like illness, pneumonia, and hepatitis, whereas the chronic form presents mainly as infective endocarditis. The aim of this study was to obtain C.burnetii phase II variant from C.burnetii phase I variant by a phase change study. In this study, C.burnetii was isolated by cell culture method from the heart valve tissue of a Q fever endocarditis case. C.burnetii phase I antigen for the indirect fluorescent antibody test (IFAT) was prepared from the isolated strain. For the isolation and identification of C.burnetii, heart valve tissue of the patient was homogenized and DNA was extracted by tissue extraction kit. C.burnetii DNA in the valve tissue was determined by real-time PCR (Rt-PCR). This C.burnetii DNA positive specimen was inoculated into Vero cells by shell vial centrifugation method. The scraped Vero cells were fixed on the slides after one week of incubation and IFAT was performed using C.burnetii phase I IgG positive sera, bacteria that were grown in and surrounding the Vero cells stained apple green were determined microscopically. Infected cells were disrupted by freeze and thaw method to obtain bacterial suspension. The DNA obtained from the bacterial suspension was again found to be positive for C.burnetii by Rt-PCR. Isolation sample was found to be positive in PCR at an earlier cycle compared to heart tissue sample, thus the bacterial growth was also confirmed with PCR. 16S ribosomal RNA gene of our isolate was amplified by PCR using 27F and 1492 primers and then sequenced. The DNA sequences were compared with reference DNA sequences of GeneBank; and the nucleotide sequence of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene of our isolate was found to be 99% similar to C.burnetii strain ATCC VR-615 an accession number NR104916. Serial cell culture passages of the isolated strain were performed to obtain C.burnetii phase II variant from C.burnetii phase I variant. After each passage, presence of phase change was investigated by IFAT using C.burnetii phase I and phase II IgG positive sera. At the end of 17 cell culture passages, phase change could not be observed. C.burnetii phase I IFAT antigen was prepared from the obtained bacterial suspension. In this study, we presented the isolation and identification of C.burnetii by cell culture, molecular and serological methods from the heart valve of a patient with endocarditis for the first time in our country.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Bacterial / isolation & purification
  • Antigens, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Coxiella burnetii* / genetics
  • Coxiella burnetii* / isolation & purification
  • Endocarditis* / microbiology
  • Heart Valves* / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Q Fever* / microbiology
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Turkey
  • Vero Cells


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S