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Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases
Volume 14, Issue 2, Pages 97-102
Original Article

Coxiella burnetii Seroprevalence of Shepherds and Their Flocks in the Lower Saint-Lawrence River Region of Quebec, Canada

Patrick Dolcé,1 Marie-Joële Bélanger,1 Krzysztof Tumanowicz,2 Claude P Gauthier,3 Philippe Jutras,1 Richard Massé,3 Claude Montpetit,4 Harold Bernatchez,1 Dorothy McColl,5 and Harvey Artsob5

1Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Centre Hospitalier Régional de Rimouski, Rimouski, Canada
2Department of Public Health of Lower Saint-Lawrence River Region of Quebec, Rimouski, Canada
3Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec, Quebec, Canada
4Institut Armand-Frappier, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
5National Microbiology Laboratory, Health Canada, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Received 26 February 2002; Accepted 12 September 2002

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


OBECTIVE: To determine the seroprevalence of Coxiella burnetii among the shepherds and their sheep in the lower Saint-Lawrence River region (LSLRR) of Quebec, Canada.

DESIGN: A prospective human-animal comparative study was conducted with 81 shepherds from 46 farms and a control group matched for sex and age. All participants answered a standardized questionnaire to evaluate their risk factors for Q fever, including a specific section on the work practices of the shepherds. All human subjects had a blood sample taken for serology to phase I and phase II antigens of C burnetii performed by indirect immunofluorescence assay. At each participating farm, seven to nine sheep had blood samples taken for C burnetii serology to be assessed by the complement fixation test.

RESULTS: The seroprevalence to C burnetii was higher in the group of shepherds (28.4%) than the control group (1.2%) (P<0.005). Among the group of shepherds, spending more than 5 h/week in the sheep barn (P=0.06) and buying and/or trading sheep within the past six months (P=0.004) were associated with positive C burnetii serology. A total of 137 of 334 sheep (41%) were seropositive for C burnetii. These positive sheep were distributed in 41 of the 46 flocks (89%). No correlation could be demonstrated between a serology for C burnetii in the herds and the shepherds.

CONCLUSION: Q fever is highly prevalent in the LSLRR of Quebec, affecting 89% of the flocks and 28% of the shepherds. Shepherds in this region are at increased risk for C burnetii infection in comparison to the general population.