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Donnelly, K.A.; Miller, M.A.; Grobler, D.; Buss, P.; Niekerk, P. van; Kleynhans, L.; Kerr, T.J.; Citino, S.B., 2021. Serological evidence of Coxiella burnetii infection in the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) in South Africa. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 52 (2): 573-579 - DOI: 10.1638/2020-0154

Location: Africa
Subject: Diseases
Species: White Rhino

Original text on this topic:
Coxiellosis, or Query (Q) fever, a disease caused by the intracellular bacteria Coxiella burnetii, was recently described in a managed breeding herd of white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) in the southeastern United States. Clinical disease often results in abortion and could represent a conservation challenge for this species. In addition to the reproductive and herd management consequences, coxiellosis is also a zoonotic disease. Infection or clinical disease in any free-ranging rhinoceros species in a national park setting has not been previously described. In this study, evidence of prior infection was measured by immunofluorescent antibody titers in 89 serum samples collected from white rhinoceros within private reserves and a national park in South Africa. Total seropositivity was 48/89 (53.9% [95% CI, 43.6–63.9%]). Animals on private reserves had a seropositivity of 21/51 (41.1% [95% CI, 27.1–55.2%]), and national park rhinoceros had a higher rate of seropositivity at 71.0% [95% CI, 55.9–86.2%] (27/38; P= 0.004). Adults had a higher seropositivity compared with subadults (P= 0.03). There was no difference in seropositivity between sexes (P > 0.05). Results demonstrate that South African white rhinoceros populations are exposed to Coxiella, which could result in underrecognized reproductive consequences. Further studies should investigate potential implications for public health and conservation management of this species.

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