Stability of Coxiella burnetii in stored human blood


  • The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the CDC or the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • This work was supported by funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Address reprint requests to: Gilbert J. Kersh, Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road, MS G-13, Atlanta, GA 30333; e-mail:



Coxiella burnetii, an obligate intracellular organism, is the causative agent of the zoonotic disease Q fever. The seroprevalence rate for Q fever in the United States is 3.1%, suggesting a high number of infections each year. However, fewer than 200 cases of Q fever are reported to the CDC annually. This discrepancy is likely the result of underutilized diagnostics and a high percentage (>50%) of asymptomatic infections. The detection of C. burnetii in patient blood during the first 2 to 3 weeks of infection raises the possibility that the organism could be present in donated human blood. The purpose of this study was to determine if extracellular C. burnetii would be stable in blood under normal storage conditions.

Study Design and Methods

Donated human blood was separated into whole blood, leukoreduced whole blood, red blood cells, and plasma. Each component was spiked with purified, extracellular C. burnetii strain Nine Mile Phase 1, and the viability and infectivity of the organisms were tested weekly.


C. burnetii did not decrease in viability or the ability to infect cells after storage in any of the blood products, even after 6 weeks of storage at 1 to 6°C.


Extracellular C. burnetii can survive and remain infectious in donated blood products.