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Q Fever collaboration to make vaccine safer and easier


NSW Department of Primary Industries scientists are set to begin development of a new human Q Fever vaccine in collaboration with the Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory (ARRL).

Q fever is spread to humans from animals such as cattle, sheep and goats, with symptoms including high fevers and chills, severe sweats, severe headaches, muscle and joint pains and extreme fatigue.

People who contract Q Fever can be very sick for several weeks, often needing to be hospitalised, and in some cases it can be fatal. Others can’t continue to work due to ongoing post-Q fever fatigue.

Researcher Ian Marsh, from NSW DPI’s Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute (EMAI), says that a recent NSW Government investment of $200 000 will allow new research to develop a safer, easier vaccine than currently available.

“If a patient has already been exposed to the bacteria which causes Q Fever, Coxiella burnetii, the current vaccine can cause a severe adverse reaction,” Dr Marsh said.

“So patients have to a blood test to detect antibodies to Coxiella burnetii and a skin test to detect cell-mediated immunity, the results of which take 7 days.

“This is the great weakness of the current vaccine, and a problem we are looking forward to this research collaboration solving.”

The proposed new human vaccine will not contain those components that cause adverse reaction and therefore will not require the pre-tests and will be safe to give patients that have already been exposed to Coxiella burnetii.

“It is hoped also that by making getting the vaccine simpler, more people may get immunised, particularly those working with, or exposed to, animals such a cattle, sheep and goats, who are at much higher risk of Q fever,” Dr Marsh said.

Currently most people in NSW at risk of infection do not get vaccinated.

“Australia has the only human vaccine in the world against Q fever, so our research and hopefully successful outcomes will also provide health benefits world-wide.”

The Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute (EMAI) is the DPI’s Centre of Excellence for Plant and Animal Health. It is NSW’s premier quarantine and biosecurity facility with critical infrastructure and world recognised research scientists.

The ARRL is a world leader in rickettsial diagnostics and research, specialising in tick transmitted diseases and a pursuit in disease discovery.

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