A human time dose response model for Q fever

Charles W. Heppell*, Joseph R. Egan, Ian Hall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The causative agent of Q fever, Coxiella burnetii, has the potential to be developed for use in biological warfare and it is classified as a bioterrorism threat agent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and as a category B select agent by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). In this paper we focus on the in-host properties that arise when an individual inhales a dose of C. burnetii and establish a human time-dose response model. We also propagate uncertainty throughout the model allowing us to robustly estimate key properties including the infectious dose and incubation period. Using human study data conducted in the 1950's we conclude that the dose required for a 50% probability of infection is about 15 organisms, and that one inhaled organism of C. burnetti can cause infection in 5% of the exposed population. In addition, we derive a low dose incubation period of 17.6 days and an extracellular doubling time of half a day. In conclusion this paper provides a framework for detailing the parameters and approaches that would be required for risk assessments associated with exposures to C. burnetii that might cause human infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-38
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was partly funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response at King's College London and in Modelling Methodology at Imperial, both in partnership with Public Health England (PHE). Ian Hall is also a Member of NIHR Health protection Research Units in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections and Gastrointestinal Infections at Liverpool. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health or Public Health England. Appendix A


  • Bacteria
  • Coxiella burnetii
  • Deposition
  • Hypergeometric
  • Macrophage
  • Mathematical model


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