Canis ISSN: 2398-2942

Coxiella burnetii

Synonym(s): C. burnetii

Contributor(s): Richard Walker




  • Family: Rickettsiaceae.
  • Genus: Coxiella.
  • Species: burnetii.


  • Coxiella: named after Herold R Cox who first isolated this organism in the USA in collaboration with G E Davis soon after it was first discovered in Australia.
  • Burnetii: named after Frank MacFarlane Burnet who first studied the properties of the organism.

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Clinical Effects



  • Survives in the environment.
  • Natural hosts include many species of mammals and arthropods (ticks, fleas, mites, lice, and flies).


  • The organism is disseminated hematogenously.
  • Persists in tissues and multiplies in vacuoles of the host cell.
  • Endospore-like growth phase occurs - the "small-cell variant".


  • In animals via tick bites or aerosols.
  • In humans usually via aerosols.
  • C. burnetii also occurs in milk of cows and sheep but transmission not so likely to occur via the gastrointestinal tract.
  • May be acquired from contaminated wool.
  • Occupational disease of farm workers, slaughterhouse workers and textile workers.

Pathological effects

  • Ruminants: sporadic abortions, weak neonates.
  • Dogs and cats: usually sub-clinical.
  • Humans: abrupt onset fever and headache; 50% of cases radiographs show a patchy pneumonia, although physical chest signs are few.
  • Illness is largely systemic and complications and death are uncommon, although it may become severe and chronic with myocarditis, pericarditis or endocarditis.

Other Host Effects

  • May be latent until the stress associated with parturition; multiplication of the organism occurs in the birth tissue, urine and stool → environmental contamination.


Control via chemotherapies


  • Not successful.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Nguyen S V, To H, Minamoto N et al (1997) Evaluation of the high-density agglutination test for Coxiella burnetii antibodies in animals. Clin Diag Lab Immunol (6), 676-680 PubMed.
  • Buhariwalla F, Cann B & Marrie T J (1996) A dog-related outbreak of Q fever. Clin Infect Diseases 23 (4), 753-755 PubMed.
  • Kelly P J, Matthewman L A, Mason P R et al (1993) Q fever in Zimbabwe. A review of the disease and the results of a serosurvey of humans, cattle, goats and dogs. South African Med J 83 (1), 21-25 PubMed.
  • Willeberg P, Ruppanner R, Behymer D E et al (1980) Environmental exposure to Coxiella burnetii - a sero-epidemiologic survey among domestic animals. Am J Epidemiol 111 (4), 437-443 PubMed.