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Open Access Animal Models of Q Fever (Coxiella burnetii)

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Q fever, caused by the pathogen Coxiella burnetii, is an acute disease that can progress to become a serious chronic illness. The organism leads an obligate, intracellular lifecycle, during which it multiplies in the phagolytic compartments of the phagocytic cells of the immune system of its hosts. This characteristic makes study of the organism particularly difficult and is perhaps one of the reasons why, more than 70 y after its discovery, much remains unknown about the organism and its pathogenesis. A variety of animal species have been used to study both the acute and chronic forms of the disease. Although none of the models perfectly mimics the disease process in humans, each opens a window onto an important aspect of the pathology of the disease. We have learned that immunosuppression, overexpression of IL10, or physical damage to the heart muscle in mice and guinea pigs can induce disease that is similar to the chronic disease seen in humans, suggesting that this aspect of disease may eventually be fully understood. Models using species from mice to nonhuman primates have been used to evaluate and characterize vaccines to protect against the disease and may ultimately yield safer, less expensive vaccines.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Public Health England (PHE), Porton Down, Salisbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom;, Email:

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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