Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Long-Term Serological Follow-Up of Acute Q-Fever Patients after a Large Epidemic.

BACKGROUND: Serological follow-up of acute Q-fever patients is important for detection of chronic infection but there is no consensus on its frequency and duration. The 2007-2009 Q-fever epidemic in the Netherlands allowed for long-term follow-up of a large cohort of acute Q-fever patients. The aim of this study was to validate the current follow-up strategy targeted to identify patients with chronic Q-fever.

METHODS: A cohort of adult acute Q-fever patients, diagnosed between 2007 and 2009, for whom a twelve-month follow-up sample was available, was invited to complete a questionnaire and provide a blood sample, four years after the acute episode. Antibody profiles, determined by immunofluorescence assay in serum, were investigated with a special focus on high titres of IgG antibodies against phase I of Coxiella burnetii, as these are considered indicative for possible chronic Q-fever.

RESULTS: Of the invited 1,907 patients fulfilling inclusion criteria, 1,289 (67.6%) were included in the analysis. At any time during the four-year follow-up period, 58 (4.5%) patients were classified as possible, probable, or proven chronic Q-fever according to the Dutch Q-fever Consensus Group criteria (which uses IgG phase I ≥1:1,024 to as serologic criterion for chronic Q-fever). Fifty-two (89.7%) of these were identified within the first year after the acute episode. Of the six patients that were detected for the first time at four-year follow-up, five had an IgG phase I titre of 1:512 at twelve months.

CONCLUSIONS: A twelve-month follow-up check after acute Q-fever is recommended as it adequately detects chronic Q-fever in patients without known risk factors. Additional serological and clinical follow-up is recommended for patients with IgG phase I ≥1:512, as they showed the highest risk to progress to chronic Q-fever.

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