Molecular detection of Coxiella burnetii from the formalin-fixed tissues of Q fever patients with acute hepatitis

Young Rock Jang, Yong Shin, Choong Eun Jin, Bonhan Koo, Se Yoon Park, Min Chul Kim, Taeeun Kim, Yong Pil Chong, Sang Oh Lee, Sang Ho Choi, Yang Soo Kim, Jun Hee Woo, Sung Han Kim, Eunsil Yu

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Serologic diagnosis is one of the most widely used diagnostic methods for Q fever, but the window period in antibody response of 2 to 3 weeks after symptom onset results in significant diagnostic delay. We investigated the diagnostic utility of Q fever PCR from formalin-fixed liver tissues in Q fever patients with acute hepatitis. Methods: We reviewed the clinical and laboratory data in patients with Q fever hepatitis who underwent liver biopsy during a 17-year period, and whose biopsied tissues were available. We also selected patients who revealed granuloma in liver biopsy and with no Q fever diagnosis within the last 3 years as control. Acute Q fever hepatitis was diagnosed if two or more of the following clinical, serologic, or histopathologic criteria were met: (1) an infectious hepatitis-like clinical feature such as fever (≥ 38°C) with elevated hepatic transaminase levels; (2) exhibition of a phase II immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies titer by IFA of ≥ 1:128 in single determination, or a four-fold or greater rise between two separate samples obtained two or more weeks apart; (3) histologic finding of biopsy tissue showing characteristic fibrin ring granuloma. Results: A total of 11 patients with acute Q fever hepatitis were selected and analyzed. Of the 11 patients, 3 (27%) had exposure to zoonotic risk factors and 7 (63%) met the serologic criteria. Granulomas with either circumferential or radiating fibrin deposition were observed in 10 cases on liver biopsy and in 1 case on bone marrow biopsy. 8 (73%) revealed positive Coxiella burnetii PCR from their formalin-fixed liver tissues. In contrast, none of 10 patients with alternative diagnosis who had hepatic granuloma revealed positive C. burnetii PCR from their formalin-fixed liver tissues. Conclusions: Q fever PCR from formalin-fixed liver tissues appears to be a useful adjunct for diagnosing Q fever hepatitis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0180237
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jul

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This study was supported by a grant from the Korea Health Technology R&D Project through the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI), funded by the Ministry of Health & Welfare, Republic of Korea (grant no. HI16C0272).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Jang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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