A Straightforward Hypoxic Cell Culture Method Suitable for Standard Incubators

 We present a new and straightforward method by which standard cell culture plates can be sealed off from ambient air and be placed under controlled hypoxic cell culture conditions without costly or highly specialized materials. The method was established on a murine cell culture system using the dendritic cell line JAWS II but can be readily adapted to other cell cultures. The procedure was designed to be easy to implement in cell culture laboratories with standard incubators and requires only readily available materials, resources, and consumables, such as six-well plates, degassed culture medium, CoCl2, a vacuum sealer, etc., and no further complicated laboratory equipment. The simple hypoxic cell culture method presented here is technically reliable and experimentally safe. As it can be performed in any standard incubator, it is suitable for use at both low and higher biosafety levels.

 Straightforward Hypoxic Cell Culture Method

Abstract taken from Svea Matthiesen, Rico Jahnke, Michael R. Knittler, Methods Protoc. 2021, 4(2), 25;


The Prevalence of Coxiella burnetii in Hard Ticks in Europe and Their Role in Q Fever Transmission Revisited - A Systematic Review

The zoonosis Q fever is caused by the obligate intracellular bacterium Coxiella burnetii. Besides the main transmission route via inhalation of contaminated aerosols, ticks are discussed as vectors since the first isolation of the pathogen from a Dermacentor andersonii tick. The rare detection of C. burnetii in ticks and the difficult differentiation of C. burnetii from Coxiella-like endosymbionts (CLEs) are questioning the relevance of ticks in the epidemiology of Q fever.

In this review, literature databases were systematically searched for recent prevalence studies concerning C. burnetii in ticks in Europe and experimental studies evaluating the vector competence of tick species. A total of 72 prevalence studies were included and evaluated regarding DNA detection methods and collection methods, country, and tested tick species. Specimens of more than 25 different tick species were collected in 23 European countries. Overall, an average prevalence of 4.8% was determined. However, in half of the studies, no Coxiella-DNA was detected. In Southern European countries, a significantly higher prevalence was observed, possibly related to the abundance of different tick species here, namely Hyalomma spp. and Rhipicephalus spp. In comparison, a similar proportion of studies used ticks sampled by flagging and dragging or tick collection from animals, under 30% of the total tick samples derived from the latter. There was no significant difference in the various target genes used for the molecular test. In most of the studies, no distinction was made between C. burnetii and CLEs. The application of specific detection methods and the confirmation of positive results are crucial to determine the role of ticks in Q fever transmission. Only two studies were available, which assessed the vector competence of ticks for C. burnetii in the last 20 years, demonstrating the need for further research.

Abstract taken from: Sophia Körner, Gustavo R Makert, Sebastian Ulbert, Martin Pfeffer, Katja Mertens-Scholz, The Prevalence of Coxiella burnetii in Hard Ticks in Europe and Their Role in Q Fever Transmission Revisited - A Systematic Review, Front Vet Sci. 2021 Apr 26; 8: 655715


Humoral immune response to Q fever vaccination of three sheep flocks naturally pre-infected with Coxiella burnetii:

 Q fever is a zoonotic disease caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii; Coxiella-infected ruminants are the main reservoir shedding the pathogen during abortion or parturition through birth products. Germany has a long history of small-scale Q fever epidemics in the human population mostly associated with lambing sheep. Therefore, fast and efficient control measures are essentially required to prevent transmission from infected sheep flocks to humans.

In our present study, three sheep flocks were vaccinated with an inactivated C. burnetii phase I vaccine after a field infection with C. burnetii was diagnosed. Serum samples and vaginal swabs were collected at different time points to evaluate the extent of the outbreak and the consequences of the vaccination. The serum samples were examined by phase-specific IgG phase I and phase II ELISAs and a commercial ELISA, simultaneously detecting both phase variations. Moreover, vaginal swabs were analysed by qPCR. The fourth flock with no Q fever history and non-vaccinated animals were used as a control group to evaluate the phase-specific ELISAs.

The inactivated C. burnetii phase I vaccine induced an IgG phase II response and boosted the humoral immune reaction against natural preinfections. Furthermore, the longevity of vaccine-induced antibodies seems to depend on previous infections. Around 16 months after primary vaccination, mainly IgG phase I antibodies were detectable. Vaccination did not prevent shedding at the next lambing season. Most interestingly, the phasespecific ELISAs revealed more C. burnetii positive animals than the blended ELISA-Assay. Taken together, phase-specific ELISAs are suitable tools to provide insights into natural- or vaccine-induced humoral immune responses to C. burnetii in sheep.

Original Abstract, © 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Source: Benjamin U. Bauer, Michael R. Knittler, T. Louise Prüfer, Annika Wolf, Svea Matthiesen, Martin Runge, Martin Ganter (2021) Humoral immune response to Q fever vaccination of three sheep flocks naturally pre-infected with Coxiella burnetii. Vaccine, Volume 39, Issue 10, 5 March 2021, Pages 1499-1507,

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Concept of an Active Surveillance System for Q Fever in German Small Ruminants - Conflicts Between Best Practices and Feasibility

Q fever is a zoonotic disease caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii. Inhalation of contaminated dust particles or aerosols originating from animals (esp. small ruminants) is the main source of human infection. Hence, an active early warning system for Q fever in German small ruminant livestock was conceptualized to prevent human infections.

First, we describe the best practice for establishing this system before evaluating its feasibility, as the combination of both evokes conflicts. Vaginal swabs from all husbandry systems with a focus on reproductive females should pooled and investigated by PCR to detect C. burnetii-shedding animals. Multistage risk-based sampling shall be carried out at the flock level and within-flock level. At the flock level, all flocks that are at risk to transmit the pathogen to the public must be sampled. At the within-flock level, all primi- and multiparous females after lambing must be tested in order to increase the probability of identifying a positive herd. Sampling should be performed during the main lambing period and before migration in residential areas.

Furthermore, individual animals should be tested before migration or exhibition to ensure a negative status. If a flock tests positive in at least one individual sample, then flock-specific preventive measures should be implemented. This approach implies huge financial costs (sample testing, action/control measures). Hence, taking the step to develop more feasible and affordable preventive measures, e.g., vaccinating small ruminant flocks, should replace testing wherever justifiable.

Abstract taken from: Winter F, Schoneberg C, Wolf A, Bauer BU, Prüfer TL, Fischer SF, Gerdes U, Runge M, Ganter M and Campe A (2021) Concept of an Active Surveillance System for Q Fever in German Small Ruminants — Conflicts Between Best Practices and Feasibility. Front. Vet. Sci. 8:623786. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2021.623786

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An outbreak of Q fever has been registered in Gabrovo, a Bulgarian city. More than 20 people that were initially tested for coronavirus were confirmed positive for Q fever. This was announced at the briefing on SARS-CoV2 pandemic by the Bulgarian national health inspector Prof. Todor Kantardzhiev. The patients are veterinarians and staff of 2 cow farms and one sheep farm. Prof. Kantardzhiev assured that the necessary measures will be taken to limit the infection.
(Shortened and adapted from: ProMED Digest, Vol 95, Issue 74)

News from May 19, 2020
Source: Sofia News Agency/


Q fever outbreak in La Rioja, a Northern province of Spain – Hospitalization of 6 patients

A total of 9 people have been treated in Health Centers of La Rioja for an outbreak of Q fever, and 3 of them were admitted, according to various local media. In addition, 3 citizens of the Basque Country, specifically from Biscay, were also admitted with Q fever, and a 4th person was waiting for bacteriological results at the time the news was compiled. The patients would have acquired the disease after a visit to La Rioja, where they would have been infected by having contact with infected animals. They spent a weekend in La Rioja, and all of them, during a rural stay, maintained direct contact with newborn goats. Recently, the Valencian Ministry of Health reported the existence of another outbreak of Q fever in Villajoyosa (Alicante), with 6 cases declared, all of them now in good health. (Shortened and adapted from: ProMED Digest, Vol 90, Issue 6

News from August December 2, 2019


Q fever outbreak in Albstadt Taiflingen


News from August 22, 2019


Q fever outbreak in Ticino Maggia Valley, Switzerland

Several cases of pneumonia have occurred the last few weeks in the Maggia Valley, Switzerland. The people who became ill turned out to be infected by Coxiella burnetti, Q fever pathogen. Q fever is a notifiable disease in Switzerland. "About 50 cases of Q fever have been reported since the beginning of the year and 20 cases were reported from Tessin", Daniel Koch from the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health disclosed upon request. A herd of goats is supposed to be the reason for the illnesses.
In order to reduce the risk of infection for humans, vaccination of the animals was ordered by the Tessin health authority. The federal government had to issue a special permit first, as there hasn't been any permit for using this vaccine so far. Therefore this vaccine can now be imported and applied. In addition the transport of animals from one farm to another was prohibited. The measures taken by the canton of Tessin are meant to put a speedy end to the risk of infection. The most probable reason for the high rate of infection is considered to be the birth of the first kids a few months ago. Besides this the dryness and the wind of the last months may have contributed to the fact that Q fever was able to spread. (Sources: ProMED-mail, 04.06.2019, archive number: 20190604.6502499,;

News from June 03 and 06, 2019


Mortality from Q fever outbreak from 2007-2010 in the Netherlands adjusted upwards: 95 people died

During the Q fever outbreak from 2007-2010 in the Netherlands an unprecedented number of people became infected with the Q fever bacterium Coxiella burnetii. (Remark: Besides the 4000 cases diagnosed a 10-fold number of unrecorded cases is assumed (see Kampschreur et al. Epidemiol. Infect. 2013). Some of them developed chronic Q fever, in which vessel walls and heart valves become infected. About half of them developed complications, such as heart failure or a ruptured aorta. The prognosis is often unfavorable. Of all patients who die of chronic Q fever, 55 percent died within one year of diagnosis. The data from patients with chronic Q fever are collected in the National Chronic Q Fever Database, a collaboration between University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht, Radboudumc in Nijmegen and Jeroen Bosch Hospital in 's Hertogenbosch.
In 2016, this database contained data from 439 patients. In that year, it appeared that 65 patients had died of the effects of chronic Q fever since the outbreak. With the 9 patients who had died due to acute Q fever, the total number of patients who had died as a result of Q fever in 2016 was 74.
The database was updated again in 2018. Currently 519 chronic Q fever patients are registered. The increase is almost entirely due to patients who have been diagnosed with chronic Q fever after 2016. In 2018, 86 patients were registered who died from the consequences of chronic Q fever, 21 more than in 2016. The total number of patients who died as a result of Q fever (acute and chronic) was therefore 95.
(Shortened version of the article)

News from February 14, 2019



At least 90 British military personnel have been diagnosed with confirmed cases of Q fever after serving in Helmand, Afghanistan (2008 to 2014). According to a UK military news outlet, Forces Network, a consultant in infectious diseases and tropical medicine told to the Central London Country Court on [Tue 22 Jan 2019] in the context of legal proceedings an affected British soldier has initiated against UK's Ministry of Defense that 90 confirmed cases of Q fever had been recorded among British soldiers who had served in Helmand.
(ProMED Digest, Vol 79, Issue 77 Q – AFG)

News Jan 24, 2019




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