1999 Clinical and Scientific Meeting

Bernhard Liedtke, Bill Paspaliaris

Melbourne Forensic & Diagnostic Services,
Albert Street Medical Centre,
372-376 Albert Street,
East Melbourne,
Vic 3002

Prevalence of Coxiella burnetii in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Coxiella burnetii is a rickettsi-like organism with a worldwide distribution and is the causative agent of Q fever. It can cause both acute and chronic diseases in humans. The disease is believed to be mainly asymptomatic and significantly under-disgnosed, due to its frequent confusion with non-specific viral illenesses. The disease can cause multiple organ damage, including endocarditis, which is sometimes fatal. Appropriate treatment with antibiotics usually leads to resolution. Q fever poses an occupational hazard to humans living in close contact with animals.

This study attempted to examine the prevalence of Q fever in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Guo Quan Zhang et al found that a 27 kDa outer membrane protein common to Coxiella species, when used with ELISA, is a sensitive and specific method for detecting anti-C. burnetti antibodies in human sera. A section of this 27-kDa outer membrane protein was synthesised and used in an ELISA test.

Thirty six CFS patients were tested with the following positive titres for IgG; 1 positive to 1:1600. Khin Khin Htwe et al reported positive Q fever results in controls worldwide averaging around 8 per cent. So far, this study has found positive results in 50 per cent of CFS patients.

The results suggest that circulating antibody levels to the causative agent of Q fever is higher in CFS than the general population. The contribution the infection makes to the symptoms of CFS is as yet unkown, however, symptoms of chronic Q fever (and other rickettsioses) are similar in many ways to CFS.

Guo Quan Zhang, et al (1998) Evaluation of a recombinant 27kDa outer membrane protein of Coxiella burnetii as an immunodiagnostic reagent. Microbiol. Immunol. 42(6):423-428.

Khin Khin Htwe, et al (1993) Prevalence of Antibodies to Coxiella burnetii in Japan. J. Clin. Microbiol. 31(3):722-723

O.G. Baca and D.Q. Paretsky (1983) Q fever and Coxiella burnetii: a model for host-parasite interactions. Microbiol. Rev. 47(2):127-149


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