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The contribution of proteomics towards deciphering the enigma of Coxiella burnetii


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Correspondence: Dr. Georgios Tsiotis, Division of Biochemistry, Department of Chemistry, University of Crete, P.O. Box 2208, GR-71003 Voutes, Greece


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Coxiella burnetii, the causative agent of Q fever, is an intracellular bacterium and a potential weapon for bioterrorism. The widespread throughout the world, zoonosis is manifested clinically as a self-limited febrile illness, as pneumonia (acute Q fever) or as a chronic illness with endocarditis being its major complication. The recent Netherlands Q fever outbreak has driven the bacterium from a relatively cryptic, underappreciated, “niche” microorganism on the sideline of bacteriology, to one of possibly great impact on public health. Advances in the study of this microorganism proceeded slowly, primarily due to the, until recently, obligatory intracellular nature of the pathogen that in its virulent phase I must be manipulated under biosafety level-3 conditions. Proteomic studies, in particular, have generated a vast amount of information concerning several aspects of the bacterium such as virulence factors, detection/diagnostic and immunogenic biomarkers, inter-/intraspecies variation, resistance to antibiotics, and secreted effector proteins with significant clinical impact. The phenomenon observed following the genomics era, that of generation and accumulation of huge amount of data that ultimately end up unexploited on several databases, begins to emerge in the proteomics field as well. This review will focus on the advances in the field of C. burnetii proteomics through MS, attempting in parallel to utilize some of the proteomics findings by suggesting future directions for the improvement of Q fever diagnosis and therapy.

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