The name Q fever (coxiellosis) designates infections with the bacterium Coxiella burnetii. As a rule, clinical signs in animals are mild. The pathogen is mainly important as causative agent of infertility and abortions in ruminants and as zoonotic agent. In humans, the causative agent of Q fever causes flu-like symptoms. Therefore it is likely that not all cases are detected. The annual number of human Q fever cases varies. The main reservoir for Coxiellae are ruminants. Here, the pathogen mainly causes abortions. During birth, large amounts of Coxiellae are excreted. Furthermore, the pathogen is excreted via milk, feces and urine. Coxiellae are transmitted aerogenically via aerosols or infected dust. Another reservoir for C. burnetii are infected ticks (natural foci). Farmers, shepherds, shearers and veterinarians are particularly at risk. Infections can also occur along sheep trails. Q fever is suspected in a holding, when serological or milk serological test results, particularly in combination with clinical signs, indicate the presence of the pathogen.
The tasks of the National Reference Laboratory for Q Fever include:
- Participation in national and international workgroups and research projects
- Research for improvement and standardization of Q fever diagnostics as well as on pathogenesis, immunization and epidemiology
- Collection and analysis of epidemiological data
- Training in diagnostic methods
- Coordination of scientific studies with other laboratories
- Publication and spread of information