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Seroprevalence of Coxiella burnetii antibodies in sheep and goats in the Republic of Ireland
  1. E. Ryan, BSc, MVB, PhD1,
  2. M. Kirby, BSc1,
  3. T. Clegg, BSc, MSc2 and
  4. D. M. Collins, DipGIS2
  1. Pathology Division, Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, Backweston, Celbridge, Co Kildare, Ireland
  2. Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis, UCD School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
  1. E-mail for correspondence eoin.ryan{at}agriculture.gov.ie

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Q fever is a zoonotic disease caused by Coxiella burnetii, a bacteria whose main reservoirs are goats, sheep and cattle but which can also infect a wide range of mammals. The objective of this study was to estimate the prevalence of exposure to C burnetii in sheep and goats in the Republic of Ireland. Serum from 2197 sheep from 119 flocks and 590 goats from 66 herds, randomly sampled, were tested for the presence of C burnetii antibodies using an indirect ELISA. In sheep, 15/2197 (0.7 per cent) samples from 10/119 (8.4 per cent) flocks were positive. In goats, 2/590 (0.3 per cent) samples from 1/66 (1.5 per cent) herd were positive. The results confirm the exposure of sheep and goats to C burnetii in the Republic of Ireland.

Q fever is a zoonotic disease caused by infection with C burnetii, an obligate gram-negative bacteria. The disease causes abortion and reproductive problems in ruminants, with goats being the most susceptible to clinical disease, followed by sheep and then cattle. Infected animals shed very high numbers of bacteria during abortion, although bacteria are also shed during normal parturition (Angelakis and Raoult 2010). Following the recent Dutch epidemic of human Q fever cases that were associated with C burnetii-associated abortions in goat herds (Roest and others 2011), a report by the European Food Safety Authority recommended that prevalence studies on C burnetii in animals should focus on small ruminants (EFSA 2010). To date, there has been no estimate using random sampling of the prevalence of antibodies to C burnetii in sheep or goats in the Republic of Ireland.

Archived serum samples, collected for other disease surveys (Brucella melitensis surveillance for sheep and caprine arthritis and encephalitis for goats), as required by European Council Directive 91/68/EC and Commission Decision 93/52/EEC, …

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