Reliable detection of Coxiella burnetii is a critical point for the control of the spread of this zoonotic disease (Q fever), ruminants being considered as the main source for human infection as confirmed by the recent human outbreak in the Netherlands since 2007. Considering both public and animal health, providing consolidated prevalence data could be relevant within the decision process of public policy makers or producers organizations. The objective of this study was to conduct a critical review of the literature focused on the prevalence of C. burnetii infection at animal, herd and within-herd levels in cattle, goat and sheep. A qualitative assessment of the 69 selected publications, based on the analysis of the sampling frame and testing procedures, was also performed. While the number of publications increased recently, major methodological issues were still evidenced. These critical issues were related to (i) the absence of description of the sampling strategy and (ii) the lack of sensitivity of the testing procedure. The lack of well designed studies makes not possible to estimate accurately the current prevalence of the infection. Nevertheless, the literature review reported the detection of C. burnetii infection in the all 5 continents with a wide range whatever the species. The apparent prevalence was slightly higher in cattle (20.0% and 37.7% of mean apparent prevalence at animal and herd level respectively) than in small ruminants (around 15.0% and 25% respectively for animal and herd level in sheep and goat). The present conclusions and the current situation support the persistent need of conducting well designed studies, aiming at estimating the true prevalence of C. burnetii infection in the three main domestic ruminant species. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.
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