No Indication of <em>Coxiella burnetii</em> Infection in Norwegian Farmed Ruminants

All samples were negative for antibodies against C. burnetii, the bacterium that causes Q–fever, according to newly published research from Oslo. The estimated prevalence of infected herds was zero for Norwegian dairy cattle herds, beef cattle herds, goat herds and sheep flocks.
calendar icon 16 June 2012
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Infection with Coxiella burnetii, the cause of Q–fever, has never been detected in Norwegian animals, according to a paper published recently in BMC Veterinary Research. Annette H. Kampen of the Norwegian Veterinary Institute and co-authors there and at the Norwegian Livestock Industry’s Biosecurity Unit, both in Oslo, explained that, recognising the increasing prevalence of the infection in neighbouring countries, they surveyed of Norwegian farmed ruminants for the prevalence of C. burnetii infection.

In their paper, the Norwegian group explains that Q-fever is a zoonotic disease caused by the intracellular bacterium, C. burnetii. Most mammals and birds are susceptible to the bacterium. Natural reservoirs are a large variety of ticks and wild vertebrates, primarily rodents but farmed ruminants are considered the main reservoir for transmission to humans.

Usually, infected animals are asymptomatic carriers. If symptoms occur in mammals, they are most often related to the reproductive system, according to Kampen and co–authors in their literature review. In cattle, C. burnetii infection may cause metritis, reduced fertility and occasionally abortions. Infection with C. burnetii in humans is often asymptomatic but may occur in an acute form with fever, pneumonia and/or hepatitis or in a severe chronic form with endocarditis that may be lethal if not treated.

Finland reported its first finding of antibodies against C. burnetii in two heifers examined as part of an export control of cattle in 2008. Infection with C. burnetii has never been detected in animals in Norway but the number of examinations for the bacterium has been limited. Between 1989 and 2002, 12 human Q–fever cases were reported; 10 of these individuals had acquired the infection abroad, while the origin of infection for the two remaining cases was not reported.

In the latest work in Oslo, milk and blood samples from more than 3,450 Norwegian dairy cattle herds, 55 beef cattle herds, 348 dairy goat herds and 118 sheep flocks were serologically examined for antibodies against C. burnetii.

All samples were negative for antibodies against C. burnetii. The estimated prevalence of infected herds were 0 (95 per cent confidence interval: 0 to 0.12 per cent), 0 (0 to 12 per cent), 0 (0 to 1.2 per cent) and 0 (0 to 10 per cent) for dairy cattle herds, beef cattle herds, goat herds and sheep flocks, respectively.

The study indicates that the prevalence of C. burnetii infection in farmed Norwegian ruminants is low, and it cannot be excluded that Norway is free of the infection, concluded Kampen and co-authors. They added that it would be beneficial if Norway were able to maintain this situation and, therefore, that preventive measures should be continued.


Kampen A.H., P. Hopp, G.M. Grøneng, I. Melkild, A.M. Urdahl, A-C. Karlsson and J. Tharaldsen. 2012. No indication of Coxiella burnetii infection in Norwegian farmed ruminants. BMC Veterinary Research, 8:59. doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-59

Further Reading

- You can view the full report (as a provisional PDF) by clicking here.

June 2012
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