Coxiella burnetti pneumonia

Last reviewed 01/2018

Q fever is a form of atypical pneumonia caused by the rickettsia-like organism Coxiella burnetti. The name originates from the term 'query' fever which was applied to the disease when first seen in abattoir workers in Australia. It accounts for less than 1% of pneumonias in the UK.

Compared to other rickettsias, C. burnetti is:

  • more resistant to physical and chemical injury
  • exhibits a negative Weil-Felix reaction - does not cross -react with Proteus antigen
  • can be transmitted to man independent of an arthropod vector
  • rash may occur but is not a major feature of the disease