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Multiple Strains of Coxiella burnetii are Present in the Environment of St. Paul Island, Alaska


C. Duncan, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Colorado State University, 300 West Drake, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA. Tel.: (970) 297 5422; Fax: (970) 297 0320; E-mail:


In 2010, Coxiella burnetii was identified at a high prevalence in the placentas of Northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) collected at a single rookery on St. Paul Island Alaska; an area of the United States where the agent was not known to be present. As contamination was hypothesized as a potential cause of false positives, but nothing was known about environmental C. burnetii in the region, an environmental survey was conducted to look for the prevalence and distribution of the organism on the island. While environmental prevalence was low, two strains of the organism were identified using PCR targeting the COM1 and IS1111 genes. The two strains are consistent with the organism that has been increasingly identified in marine mammals as well as a strain type more commonly found in terrestrial environments and associated with disease in humans and terrestrial animals. Further work is needed to elucidate information regarding the ecology of this organism in this region, particularly in association with the coastal environment.