Experimental Coxiella burnetii infection in non-pregnant goats and the effect of breeding

Roest, Hendrik I.J.; Dinkla, Annemieke; Koets, Ad P.; Post, Jacob; Keulen, Lucien Van


Q fever is a zoonosis caused by the intracellular bacterium Coxiella burnetii. In Europe, small ruminants are the main source of human Q fever. Small ruminant herds can be infectious during several lambing seasons. However, it is not clear how infection is maintained in a herd and what role non-pregnant animals play in the transmission of C. burnetii. We therefore inoculated nulliparous goats with C. burnetii, isolated from the outbreak of Q fever in the Netherlands, to gain a better understanding of the role of non-pregnant goats. Seroconversion and excretion of C. burnetii were monitored after inoculation. To study the effect of breeding on the excretion of C. burnetii, the goats were naturally bred and monitored during gestation and after lambing. Our results indicate that C. burnetii infection prior to breeding did not result in infection of the placenta nor did it affect the gestation length or the number of kids born. However, one of the ten does did excrete C. burnetii in the colostrum post-partum and the bacterium was detected in the mammary gland and associated lymph nodes at necropsy. This result indicates that non-pregnant goats might play a role in maintaining Q fever in a goat herd as persistent carriers of infection.