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Keywords:

  • Coxiella burnetii ;
  • Q fever;
  • cattle;
  • ELISA;
  • PCR;
  • qPCR

Summary

Bulk-tank milk (BTM) samples are frequently used to evaluate the health status of dairy livestock. A large-scale investigation carried out in BTM samples from dairy cattle herds from a Q fever-endemic region in Northern Spain revealed a high degree of exposure to Coxiella burnetii. This study was aimed at assessing the value of BTM samples analysis as an indicator of the C. burnetii status in dairy cattle herds. Three herds with BTM samples positive for C. burnetii by ELISA and PCR were selected, and blood, faeces and individual milk and BTM samples were analysed by serology and PCR. In spite of the high antibodies titres found in BTM samples, only one of the three farms presented an active infection by C. burnetii, as revealed by the presence of bacterial DNA in vaginal mucus and in environmental samples collected in the calving area, a seroprevalence around 40% in heifers and the seroconversion rate observed in cows. Results obtained indicated that the analysis of BTM samples is a good epidemiological tool at the population level that can be used to discriminate between seropositive and seronegative herds, but at the herd level, additional tests are necessary to evaluate whether Q fever is a potential problem in the farm. When Q fever is suspected in a cattle herd, sera from a small group of 1- to 3-year-old animals need to be analysed to investigate recent contact with C. burnetii.