Q fever and HIV infection

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Objective: To study the frequency of Q fever in HIV-infected individuals.Design: A seroprevalence study.Setting: French National Reference Centre for Rickettsial Agents, Marseille, France.Patients and methods: Five out of the 68 hospitalized cases of Q fever diagnosed in 1987–1989 were also HIV-infected and are described here. Sera from a blood-donor bank (n = 925) and from HIV-positive individuals selected at random, irrespective of clinical or immunological status (n = 500) were tested for Q fever.Results: Comparisons of the two groups showed a statistically significant difference (2.4 versus 0.8%; Fisher's exact test) at the diagnostic dilution 1:200 and at the dilution considered positive for seroprevalence study (1: 1000).Conclusions: Using the estimated incidence of HIV infection in Marseille, the number of Q fever cases in 1987–1989 was 13 times higher and the clinical expression more frequently symptomatic in the HIV-positive population than in the general one. The prevalence: seroprevalence ratio for Q fever was 1.37% in the HIV-positive group and 0.36% in the blood-donor group. Sera positive for Q fever were confirmed by Western blot analysis in order to minimize cross-reaction. Transmission of Q fever appears to be more frequent in HIV-positive individuals than in the general population; this is not surprising, since Coxiella burnetii lives in the phagolysosome, like other micro-organisms described in immunocompromised hosts. Q fever should be added to the spectrum of diseases that occur more frequently during HIV infection.

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