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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Sero-epidemiological survey of Coxiella burnetii in livestock and humans in Tana River and Garissa counties in Kenya

Mwololo, Damaris; Nthiwa, Daniel; Kitala, Philip; Abuom, Tequiero; Wainaina, Martin; Kairu-Wanyoike, Salome; Lindahl, Johanna; Ontiri, Enoch; Bukachi, Salome; Njeru, Ian; Karanja, Joan; Sang, Rosemary; Grace, Delia; Bett, Bernard


Author summaryQ fever caused by Coxiella burnetii is a significant zoonotic disease that affects wildlife, domestic animals and humans. This study determined the prevalence of antibodies to C. burnetii in livestock (cattle, sheep, and goats) and human populations in arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya between December 2013 and February 2014. We also identified potential factors that were associated with exposure among the above-targeted hosts. Results from this study showed considerable exposure in both livestock and human populations. However, human exposure to this pathogen at the household level was not correlated with herd-level seropositivity. Further studies are needed to elucidate the transmission routes of this pathogen among humans.BackgroundCoxiella burnetii is a widely distributed pathogen, but data on its epidemiology in livestock, and human populations remains scanty, especially in developing countries such as Kenya. We used the One Health approach to estimate the seroprevalance of C. burnetii in cattle, sheep, goats and human populations in Tana River county, and in humans in Garissa county, Kenya. We also identified potential determinants of exposure among these hosts. MethodsData were collected through a cross-sectional study with a cluster sampling design. Serum samples were taken from 2,727 animals (466 cattle, 1,333 goats, and 928 sheep) and 974 humans and screened for Phase I/II IgG antibodies against C. burnetii using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Data on potential factors associated with animal and human exposure were collected using a structured questionnaire. Multivariable analyses were performed with households as random effects to adjust for the within-household correlation of C. burnetii exposure among animals and humans, respectively. ResultsThe overall apparent seroprevalence estimates of C. burnetii in livestock and humans were 12.80% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 11.57-14.11) and 24.44% (95% CI: 21.77-27.26), respectively. In livestock, the seroprevalence differed significantly by species (p < 0.01). The highest seroprevalence estimates were observed in goats 15.22% (95% CI: 13.34-17.27), then sheep 14.22% (95% CI: 12.04-16.64) and with cattle 3.00% (95% CI; 1.65-4.99) showing lower values. Herd-level seropositivity of C. burnetii in livestock was not positively associated with human exposure. Multivariable results showed that female animals had higher odds of seropositivity for C. burnetii than males, while for animal age groups, adult animals had higher odds of seropositivity than calves, kids or lambs. For livestock species, both sheep and goats had significantly higher odds of seropositivity than cattle. In human populations, men had a significantly higher odds of testing positive for C. burnetii than women. ConclusionsThis study provides evidence of livestock and human exposure to C. burnetii which could have serious economic implications on livestock production and impact on human health. These results also highlight the need to establish active surveillance in the study area to reduce the disease burden associated with this pathogen.

Published in

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
2022, volume: 16, number: 3, article number: e0010214

Authors' information

Mwololo, Damaris
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives
Nthiwa, Daniel
University of Embu (UoEm)
Kitala, Philip
University of Nairobi
Abuom, Tequiero
University of Nairobi
Wainaina, Martin
International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Kairu-Wanyoike, Salome
Directorate Vet Serv
International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Uppsala University
Ontiri, Enoch
International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Bukachi, Salome
University of Nairobi
Njeru, Ian
Kenyatta National Hospital
Karanja, Joan
Kenyatta National Hospital
Sang, Rosemary
Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)
Grace, Delia
University of Greenwich
Bett, Bernard
International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

UKÄ Subject classification

Clinical Science

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