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FDA Approves Q Fever Test for Military Personnel


Overseas military personnel now have a test to diagnose the early stages of Q fever, an emerging infectious disease among US soldiers serving in Iraq and other locations worldwide. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the test to be used on the Defense Department’s Joint Biological Agency Identification and Diagnostic System (JBAIDS).

Q fever is also known as goat fever

Q fever is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be passed from animals to people. Other types of zoonotic diseases include rabies, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease.

Q fever, also known as goat fever, is caused by bacteria called Coxiella burnetii, which is carried by goats, cattle, and sheep and deposited into the soil through feces. People can get Q fever when they inhale dust that has been contaminated. The mortality rate is 1 to 2 percent.

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The FDA has now approved the first nucleic acid amplification test, which can identify and detect Coxiella burnetii within four hours. A multiple use instrument called the JBAIDS, which rapidly detects numerous bacteria and viruses in the blood, will be used to test military personnel. Only Department of Defense labs equipped with the JBAIDS can administer the test.

When Q fever is diagnosed early, most people can fully recover after being treated with the appropriate antibiotics. Anyone who fails to be treated can develop serious chronic illness. Chronic Q fever develops in less than 1 percent of people who have acute disease, but people who are immunosuppressed, who have a pre-existing heart valve disorder, or who are pregnant are at greater risk for chronic Q fever.

In May 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory, asking physicians to evaluate people who have returned from Iraq if they have indications of Q fever infections, which include fever, hepatitis, and pneumonia.

Development of the new test for Q fever for military personnel is critical because “Q fever bacteria is considered a biothreat agent in part due to the fact that fewer than 10 organisms need to be inhaled to cause infection and its ability to withstand open environments,” according to Jeffrey Shuren, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

FDA press release