Coxiella burnetii abortion in a dairy farm selling artisanal cheese directly to consumers and review of Q fever as a bovine abortifacient in South America and a human milk-borne disease

Ana Rabaza, Melissa Macías-Rioseco, Martín Fraga, Francisco A. Uzal, Mark C. Eisler, Franklin Riet-Correa, Federico Giannitti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Coxiella burnetii is a highly transmissible intracellular bacterium with a low infective dose that causes Q fever (coxiellosis), a notifiable zoonotic disease distributed worldwide. Livestock are the main source of C. burnetii transmission to humans, which occurs mostly through the aerogenous route. Although C. burnetii is a major abortifacient in small ruminants, it is less frequently diagnosed in aborting cattle. We report a case of C. burnetii abortion in a lactating Holstein cow from a dairy farm producing and selling artisanal cheese directly to consumers in Uruguay, and review the literature on coxiellosis as a bovine abortifacient in South America and as a milk-borne disease. The aborted cow had severe necrotizing placentitis with abundant intratrophoblastic and intralesional C. burnetii confirmed by immunohistochemistry and PCR. After primo-infection in cattle, C. burnetii remains latent in the lymph nodes and mammary glands, with milk being a significant and persistent excretion route. Viable C. burnetii has been found in unpasteurized milk and cheeses after several months of maturing. The risk of coxiellosis after the consumption of unpasteurized dairy products, including cheese, is not negligible. This report raises awareness on bovine coxiellosis as a potential food safety problem in on-farm raw cheese manufacturing and sales. The scant publications on abortive coxiellosis in cattle in South America suggest that the condition has probably gone underreported in all countries of this subcontinent except for Uruguay. Therefore, we also discuss the diagnostic criteria for laboratory-based confirmation of C. burnetii abortion in ruminants as a guideline for veterinary diagnosticians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBrazilian Journal of Microbiology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Abortion
  • Dairy production
  • Food safety
  • Milk-borne disease
  • Q fever
  • Zoonosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology

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