Genotyping and Axenic Growth of Coxiella burnetii Isolates Found in the United States Environment

Gilbert J. Kersh, Rachael A. Priestley, Heidie M. Hornstra, Joshua S. Self, Kelly A. Fitzpatrick, Brad J. Biggerstaff, Paul Keim, Talima Pearson, Robert F. Massung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Coxiella burnetii is a gram-negative bacterium that is the etiologic agent of the zoonotic disease Q fever. Common reservoirs of C. burnetii include sheep, goats, and cattle. These animals shed C. burnetii into the environment, and humans are infected by inhalation of aerosols. A survey of 1622 environmental samples taken across the United States in 2006-2008 found that 23.8% of the samples contained C. burnetii DNA. To identify the strains circulating in the U.S. environment, DNA from these environmental samples was genotyped using an SNP-based approach to derive sequence types (ST) that are also compatible with multispacer sequence typing methods. Three different sequence types were observed in 31 samples taken from 19 locations. ST8 was associated with goats and ST20 with dairy cattle. ST16/26 was detected in locations with exposure to various animals and also in locations with no direct animal contact. Viable isolates were obtained for all three sequence types, but only the ST20 and ST16/26 isolates grew in acidified citrate cysteine medium (ACCM)-2 axenic media. Examination of a variety of isolates with different sequence types showed that ST8 and closely related isolates did not grow in ACCM-2. These results suggest that a limited number of C. burnetii sequence types are circulating in the U.S. environment and these strains have close associations with specific reservoir species. Growth in ACCM-2 may not be suitable for isolation of many C. burnetii strains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)588-594
Number of pages7
JournalVector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Coxiella
  • Q fever
  • genetics
  • reservoir host
  • zoonotic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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