Coxiella burnetii, an obligate intracellular organism, is the causative agent of the zoonotic disease Q fever. The seroprevalence rate for Q fever in the United States is 3.1%, suggesting a high number of infections each year. However, fewer than 200 cases of Q fever are reported to the CDC annually. This discrepancy is likely the result of underutilized diagnostics and a high percentage (>50%) of asymptomatic infections. The detection of C. burnetii in patient blood during the first 2 to 3 weeks of infection raises the possibility that the organism could be present in donated human blood. The purpose of this study was to determine if extracellular C. burnetii would be stable in blood under normal storage conditions.Study Design and Methods
Donated human blood was separated into whole blood, leukoreduced whole blood, red blood cells, and plasma. Each component was spiked with purified, extracellular C. burnetii strain Nine Mile Phase 1, and the viability and infectivity of the organisms were tested weekly.Results
C. burnetii did not decrease in viability or the ability to infect cells after storage in any of the blood products, even after 6 weeks of storage at 1 to 6°C.Conclusions
Extracellular C. burnetii can survive and remain infectious in donated blood products.