Developing a better understanding of the drivers of Q fever spread in farmed animals
We are a multidisciplinary group that aims to improve understanding of Q fever reservoirs, amplification and transmission pathways. Our research will help direct biosecurity resources more efficiently in Australia and more broadly. In turn this will reduce the burden of an extremely debilitating disease in rural communities and around the globe.
This project will provide knowledge that can be used to develop policies that will limit the likelihood of a large and prolonged Q fever outbreak in Australia. This will help to maintain Australia’s position as an exporter of premium agricultural produce.
The overall objectives of our research are to:
- develop a better understanding of factors influencing the risk of Q fever spread within and between Australian ruminant livestock enterprises
- develop national guidelines for an emergency response plan to be used in the event of future Q fever outbreaks in humans
What is Q fever and how is it spread from animals to humans?
Q fever is an infectious disease of humans and animals caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii. In humans, Q fever causes a prolonged, debilitating illness.Some affected individuals will also develop chronic syndromes that include pneumonia and endocarditis. Intensively managed livestock herds provide conditions favourable for amplification and spread of Q fever. C. burnetii is extremely resistant to environmental conditions and one of the most contagious organisms known to man: a single organism is sufficient to cause infection. The most common routes of infection are inhalation of contaminated dust, contact with contaminated milk, meat, wool and close contact with infected animals, particularly their birthing products.
The risk of Q fever outbreaks in Australia
In The Netherlands in 2007-2010 there was a large outbreak of Q fever in humans, with 4000 confirmed cases and 30 deaths. Dairy goat herds, infected with Q fever, were the source of this outbreak. There is a risk that an outbreak of Q fever, similar to that which occurred in The Netherlands, could occur in Australia. We have some of the highest rates of human infection in the world, and our combination of conducive climate conditions and growing livestock industry makes us susceptible to possible outbreaks.
To find out more about our research, please navigate this website and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions. You can learn more about Q fever in Australia by listening to a recent (and excellent) ABC Landline podcast series and by viewing some useful fact sheets on transmission, diagnosis and treatment.
Who makes up the Q fever group?
Taking the Query out of Q fever, funded by AgriFutures Australia, is a multidisciplinary initiative that brings together research groups, government agencies and industry partners from Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.
The University of Melbourne
- Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, Vet Epi @ Melbourne
- Professor Mark Stevenson, Project Leader
- Dr Bonny Cumming, Project Manager
- Dr Simon Firestone
- Dr Anke Wiethoelter
The University Queensland
- School of Veterinary Science, UQ Spatial Epidemiology Laboratory
- Associate Professor Ricardo Soares Magalhães
- Dr Nicholas Clark
The University of Adelaide
- Veterinary Epidemiology & Aquatic Population Health, School of Animal & Veterinary Sciences
- Dr Charles Caraguel
Charles Sturt University
- School of Animal & Veterinary Sciences
- Associate Professor Jane Heller
- Associate Professor John Stenos
- Dr Gemma Vincent
- Professor Stephen Graves
- Sandy & Julie Cameron
- Dr Sandra Baxendell
With support from NSW Department of Primary Industries, the Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources, Biosecurity Queensland and Nuchev Pty Ltd.
Events and Announcements
- Q fever outbreaks: Identifying, assessing and managing the risk, panel discussion and scientific presentations at the Sheep, Camelid and Goat Veterinarians Special Interest Group of the Australian Veterinary Association, Melbourne, 12-16 August 2018.
- SE Queensland goat farm bus tour after Australian Veterinary Association Conference, Friday 18th May 2018. Organised by Sheep Goat Camelid SIG of the AVA.
- Project collaborators meeting, University of Melbourne, 18th April 2018
- Q Fever Research News, AgriFutures Australia, 17 Dec 2017 http://veterinarycareers.com.au/q-fever-research-news/
- Project meeting, Melbourne Airport, 9 May 2017
- Research to minimise Q fever outbreaks, Vet Practice Magazine, 13 Oct 2016: https://vetpracticemag.com.au/research-minimise-q-fever-outbreaks/
- Research to minimise Q fever outbreaks, UQ News, 10 Oct 2016: https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2016/10/research-minimise-q-fever-outbreaks
- National Workshop to Identify Q Fever Knowledge Gaps and Research Needs, Melbourne, 15-16 April 2015
Contacts and Media Enquiries
Dr Bonny Cumming, Project Manager
The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010 Australia
T: +61 418 770 545
Linked-in Group: Q Fever Researchers Australia
Information and Resources on Q Fever
The Australian Q Fever Register, and Resources List
Seqirus™ (Australia) Pty Ltd – Q Fever
Health Direct – Q Fever
Victorian Farmer’s Federation – The Facts About Q Fever
SA Health – Q Fever
QLD Government – Q Fever
Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria – Q Fever Disease Information and Advice
NSW Health - Q Fever Awareness Toolkit
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners – Diagnosis and management of zoonoses: A tool for general practice factsheet
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Q Fever, and associated Publications and Resources
Research Team Publications
Bond, K.A., Franklin, L., Sutton, B., Stevenson, M.A., Firestone, S.M., 2018. A review of 20 years of human acute Q Fever notifications in Victoria, 1994-2013. Aust. Vet. J.
Bond, K.A., Franklin, L.J., Sutton, B., Firestone, S.M., 2017. Q-Vax Q fever vaccine failures, Victoria, Australia 1994–2013. Vaccine 35, 7084-7087.
Coxiella burnetii infections in intensively-managed dairy goats: elucidation of transmission dynamics and vaccination strategies, Muleme (2017) PhD thesis. https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/197548
Muleme, M., Campbell, A., Stenos, J., Devlin, J.M., Vincent, G., Graves, S., Cameron, A.R., Wilks, C.R., Firestone, S.M., 2017. A longitudinal study of Coxiella burnetii transmission dynamics in intensively-managed kid goats supports early use of vaccines. Vet. Res. 48, 1-15.
Muleme, M., Stenos, J., Vincent, G., Wilks, C.R., Devlin, J.M., Campbell, A., Cameron, A., Stevenson, M.A., Graves, S., Firestone, S.M., 2017. Peripartum dynamics of Coxiella burnetii infections in intensively managed dairy goats associated with a Q fever outbreak in Australia. Prev. Vet. Med. 139, 58-66.
Muleme, M., Stenos, J., Vincent, G., Campbell, A., Graves, S., Warner, S., Devlin, J.M., Nguyen, C., Stevenson, M.A., Wilks, C.R., Firestone, S.M., 2016. Bayesian validation of the indirect immuno-fluorescence assay and its superiority to the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and complement fixation test for detecting antibodies against Coxiella burnetii in goat serum. Clin. Vaccine Immunol., CVI. 00724-00715.
Wilks, C., 2016. Q Fever Risk Management Plan for proposed intensive dairy goat farms. Nuchev Pty Ltd. http://nuchev.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Nuchev-Q-Fever-Risk-Management-Plan.pdf
Stevenson, M.A., Firestone, S.M., 2015. Veterinary epidemiology and ‘One Health’ in Australasia. Australasian Epidemiologist 22, 35-38.
Bond, K.A., Vincent, G., Wilks, C.R., Franklin, L., Sutton, B., Stenos, J., Cowan, R., Lim, K., Athan, E., Harris, O., Macfarlane-Berry, L., Segal, Y., Firestone, S.M., 2015. One Health approach to controlling a Q fever outbreak on an Australian goat farm. Epidemiol. Infect., 1-13.