Phylogenetic Diversity, Virulence and Comparative Genomics Academic Article uri icon


  • Coxiella burnetii, the causative agent of Q fever, has remained a public health concern since the identification of this organism in 1935 by E. H. Derrick in Australia and at the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in the USA by H.R. Cox and G. Davis. Human Q fever has been described in most countries where C. burnetii is ubiquitous in the environment except in New Zealand where no cases have been described. Most human infections are acquired through inhalation of contaminated aerosols that can lead to acute self-limiting febrile illness or more severe chronic cases of hepatitis or endocarditis. It is estimated that the actual incidence of human infection is under-reported as a result of imprecise tools for differential diagnosis. An intracellular lifestyle, low infectious dose, and ease of transmission have resulted in the classification of C. burnetii as a category B bio-warfare agent. The recent outbreaks in Europe are a reminder that there is much to learn about this unique intracellular pathogen, especially with the speculation of a hyper-virulent strain contributing to an outbreak in the Netherlands where over 4,000 human cases were reported. A new era in C. burnetii research has begun with the recent description of an axenic media making this an exciting time to study this bacterial pathogen.

author list (cited authors)

  • van Schaik, E. J., & Samuel, J. E.

citation count

  • 4

publication date

  • May 2012