Abstract: Q fever is considered one of the most important zoonoses in Australia. Whilst ruminants are the primary reservoirs for Coxiella burnetii, and the major source of human infection, human cases have also been reported following contact with pet dogs and cats. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of seropositivity to, and bacterial shedding of, C. burnetii by pet dogs and cats in a region with a high human Q fever incidence and explore risk factors for C. burnetii exposure. Samples (serum, whole blood, reproductive tissue, reproductive swabs) and questionnaires (completed by the pet's owner) were collected from dogs and cats from eight communities across remote New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Overall 86/330 dogs (26.1%, 95% CI 21.3-30.8%) and 19/145 cats (13.1%, 95% CI 7.6-18.6%) were seropositive to C. burnetii. Seroprevalence varied significantly between communities and was highest in communities within 150km of a 2015 human Q fever outbreak. Feeding raw kangaroo was identified as a risk factor for seropositivity (adjusted OR 3.37, 95% CI 1.21-9.43). Coxiella burnetii DNA was not detected from any dog or cat whole blood, reproductive tissues or vaginal/preputial swabs using qPCR targeting the IS1111 and com1 genes. Our findings suggest that companion animals are frequently exposed to C. burnetii in western NSW. Geographical variation in C. burnetii seroprevalence amongst companion animals – which corresponds with a human Q fever outbreak – suggests a shared environmental source of infection is likely with important consequences for public and animal health. The lack of detection of C. burnetii DNA from healthy companion animals suggests that pet dogs and cats are not an important reservoir for human Q fever infection outside a narrow periparturient window.
Ma, Gemma C., Norris, Jacqueline M., Mathews, Karen O., Chandra, Shona, Šlapeta, Jan, Bosward, Katrina L., Ward, Michael P., 2020, New insights on the epidemiology of Coxiella burnetii in pet dogs and cats from New South Wales, Australia, Journal Article, viewed 04 December 2023, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=17592.