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First molecular detection and genetic characterization of Coxiella burnetii in Zambian dogs and rodents

Chitanga, Simbarashe, Simulundu, Edgar, Simuunza, Martin C., Changula, Katendi, Qiu, Yongjin, Kajihara, Masahiro, Nakao, Ryo, Syakalima, Michelo, Takada, Ayato, Mweene, Aaron S., Mukaratirwa, Samson, Hang’ombe, Bernard M.
Parasites & vectors 2018 v.11 no.1 pp. 40
Coxiella burnetii, Q fever, developing countries, dogs, epidemiology, genes, goats, hosts, humans, pathogens, patients, phylogeny, polymerase chain reaction, public health, ribosomal RNA, rodents, sheep, shrews, Zambia
Coxiella burnetii, the causative agent of Q fever, is a zoonotic pathogen associated with sylvatic or domestic transmission cycles, with rodents being suspected to link the two transmission cycles. Infection and subsequent disease in humans has historically been associated with contact with infected livestock, especially sheep. However, recently there have been reports of Q fever outbreaks associated with contact with infected rodents and dogs. Studies exploring the potential role of these animal hosts in the epidemiology of Q fever in many developing countries in Africa are very limited. This study aimed to determine the potential role of rodents and dogs in the epidemiological cycle of C. burnetti in Zambia. Using pathogen-specific polymerase chain reaction assays targeting the 16S rRNA gene, C. burnetii was detected for the first time in 45% of rodents (9/20), in one shrew and in 10% of domestic dogs (15/150) screened in Zambia. Phylogenetic characterization of six samples based on the isocitrate synthase gene revealed that the strains were similar to a group of isolates from chronic human Q fever patients, goats and rodents reported in multiple continents. Considering the close proximity of domestic dogs and rodents to humans, especially in resource-limited communities, the presence of C. burnetii in these animals could be of significant public health importance. It is thus important to determine the burden of Q fever in humans in such resource-limited communities where there is close contact between humans, rodents and dogs.