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Coxiella burnetii seropositivity and associated risk factors in sheep in Ontario, Canada

Meadows, S., Jones-Bitton, A., McEwen, S., Jansen, J., Menzies, P.
Preventive veterinary medicine 2015 v.122 no.1-2 pp. 129-134
Coxiella burnetii, Q fever, antibodies, bacteria, cross-sectional studies, dairy sheep, disinfection, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, ewes, farms, flocks, hygiene, lambing, lambs, logit analysis, pregnancy, risk factors, seroprevalence, sheep meat, Ontario
Coxiella burnetii is a zoonotic bacterium that can cause abortion in sheep in late gestation, as well as the delivery of stillborn, and non-viable lambs (Rodolakis, 2006). A cross-sectional study was conducted in Ontario, Canada, to investigate C. burnetii exposure in sheep. Between August 2010 and January 2012, sera from 2363 reproductively active ewes from 72 farms were tested for C. burnetii specific antibodies using the CHEKIT Q fever ELISA Test kit (IDEXX Laboratories). Overall, exposure was common; sheep-level seroprevalence was 14.7% (347/2363, 95% CI: 13.3–16.2), and was higher in dairy sheep (24.3%, 181/744) than meat sheep (10.2%, 166/1619) (p<0.0001). At the farm-level, 48.6% (35/72, 95% CI: 37.2–60.1) of farms had at least one seropositive sheep. A mixed multivariable logistic model that controlled for farm-level clustering, identified risk factors associated (p<0.05) with sheep seropositivity. Increasing female flock size (logarithmic scale) was associated with increased odds of seropositivity. By way of illustration, increasing the female flock size from 100 to 200 increased the odds of seropositivity by 2.26 times (95% CI: 1.5–3.5). Sheep that lambed in an airspace separate from the flock had 11.3 times (95% CI: 2.9–43.6) the odds of seropositivity relative to other sheep. The practice of loaning sheep that returned to the farm increased odds of seropositivity by 8.1 times (95% CI: 1.8–33.6). Lambing pen hygiene practices also influenced odds of seropositivity. Relative to sheep from farms where all lambing pen hygiene measures were practiced after lambing (i.e., adding bedding, removing birth materials and disinfection), sheep from farms that only added bedding, or those that just added bedding and removed birthing materials had 5.9 times (95% CI: 1.1–32.1) and 9.0 times (95% CI: 2.2–36.9) the odds of seropositivity, respectively. These results can be used to inform prevention and control strategies with the aim of reducing C. burnetii exposure in sheep.