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Author Notes:

Corresponding author: Ellen A Spotts Whitney, Center for Public Health Preparedness and Research and Department of Epidemiology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Email: ewhitn@emory.edu.

We thank Colleen Spellen for her assistance with data entry and Ann Tourigny Turner and Betty R Cartwright for facilitating the study at the AALAS meeting.

The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.


Research Funding:

Financial support for this research was provided by a grant from The Elizabeth R Griffin Research Foundation to the Center for Public Health Preparedness and Research, Rollins School of Public Health.

Survey of Laboratory Animal Technicians in the United States for Coxiella burnetii Antibodies and Exploration of Risk Factors for Exposure


Journal Title:

Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science : JAALAS


Volume 52, Number 6


, Pages 725-731

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Little is known about the prevalence of zoonotic infections among laboratory animal care technicians (LAT). Q fever, a disease caused by Coxiella burnetii, is a known occupational hazard for persons caring for livestock. We sought to determine the seroprevalence of C. burnetii antibodies among LAT and to identify risk factors associated with C. burnetii seropositivity. A survey was administered and serum samples collected from a convenience sample of 97 LAT. Samples were screened by using a Q fever IgG ELISA. Immunofluorescent antibody assays for phase I and phase II IgG were used to confirm the status of samples that were positive or equivocal by ELISA; positive samples were titered to endpoint. Antibodies against C. burnetii were detected in 6 (6%) of the 97 respondents. In our sample of LAT, seropositivity to C. burnetii was therefore twice as high in LAT as compared with the general population. Age, sex, and working with sheep regularly were not associated with seropositivity. Risk factors associated with seropositivity included breeding cattle within respondent's research facility, any current job contact with waste from beef cattle or goats, and exposure to animal waste during previous jobs or outside of current job duties. Only 15% of responding LAT reported being aware that sheep, goats, and cattle can transmit Q fever. Research facilities that use cattle or goats should evaluate their waste-management practices and educational programs in light of these findings. Additional efforts are needed to increase awareness among LAT regarding Q fever and heightened risk of exposure to infectious materials. Physicians should consider the risk of infection with C. burnetii when treating LAT with potential occupational exposures.

Copyright information:

© American Association for Laboratory Animal Science

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