Serological Prevalence of and Risk Factors for Coxiella burnetti Infection in Women of Punjab Province, Pakistan
Background: Coxiella burnetii, the etiological agent of Q (query) fever, provokes abortions in ruminants and is suspected to cause adverse pregnancy outcomes in women. Infection of pregnant women is linked with high mortality and morbidity of the fetus and the mother is at high risk to acquire chronic Q fever. This research was conducted to evaluate the prevalence of Q fever in women and to detect associated risk factors in four districts of Punjab Province, Pakistan. Methods: A total of 297 blood samples were obtained from 147 pregnant and 150 non-pregnant women of the districts Okara, Jhang, Chiniot and Faisalabad of Punjab, Pakistan. Data related to risk factors and demographic parameters were collected using a questionnaire. Serum samples were screened for phase I and phase II specific IgG antibodies for antigens of phase I and phase II using ELISA tests. Univariate and binary regression were used to analyze important risk factors of Q fever. Results: Twenty-five serum samples (8.4%) were found seropositive for Q fever. Seventeen women were positive for Phase-I and twenty-one were positive for phase-II antibodies. Highest and statistically significant (p < 0.05) seroprevalence of 17.1% was observed in Faisalabad. Age, urbanicity, living status, pregnancy status, abortion history, occupation, and consumption of tap water were positively correlated (p < 0.05) with Q fever, while being aged, urbanity, low income, contact with animals and consumption of tap water was identified as potential risk factors. Conclusions: Q fever is prevalent in women of Pakistan. There is a need for an awareness program about the importance of C. burnetii infections and prevention strategies in women during pregnancy to minimize adverse pregnancy outcomes.