Risk factors for an infection with Coxiella burnetii in German sheep flocks
In Germany, sheep are the main source of human Q fever epidemics, but data on Coxiella burnetii (C. burnetii) infections and related risk factors in the German sheep population remain scarce. In this cross-sectional study, a standardised interview was conducted across 71 exclusively sheep as well as mixed (sheep and goat) farms to identify animal and herd level risk factors associated with the detection of C. burnetii antibodies or pathogen-specific gene fragments via univariable and multivariable logistic regression analysis. Serum samples and genital swabs from adult males and females of 3367 small ruminants from 71 farms were collected and analysed using ELISA and qPCR, respectively. On animal level, univariable analysis identified young animals (<2 years of age; odds ratio (OR) 0.33; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.13-0.83) to reduce the risk for seropositivity significantly (p < 0.05). The final multivariable logistic models identified lambing all year-round (OR 3.46/3.65; 95% CI 0.80-15.06/0.41-32.06) and purchases of sheep and goats (OR 13.61/22.99; 95% CI 2.86-64.64/2.21-239.42) as risk factors on herd level for C. burnetii infection detected via ELISA and qPCR, respectively.