Primary humoral antibody response to Coxiella burnetii, the causative agent of Q fever

D. Guigno, B. Coupland, E. G. Smith, I. D. Farrell, U. Desselberger*, E. O. Caul

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Of 147 patients with acute Q fever diagnosed during a major outbreak in Birmingham, England, in early summer 1989, 41 provided sets of sera which allowed us to make a detailed analysis of the primary humoral immune response. Antibody titers specific for Coxiella burnetii were measured by the complement fixation test and by an immunoglobulin M (IgM)- and IgG-specific indirect immunofluorescence test. The relative avidity of specific IgGs was determined by the indirect immunofluorescence test with and without treatment of antigen-antibody complexes with 8 M urea. The IgG subclass responses after primary infection and their avidities were also determined for a limited number of paired serum specimens. Specific IgM titers persisted for more than 6 months in the majority of cases and were therefore not a sufficient criterion for the diagnosis of recent infection. However, for serial samples the antibody titer ratios (IgG/IgM) and the ratios (IgG titer with treatment/IgG titer without treatment) that indicated relative avidity changed significantly, depending on the time postinfection. Within the IgG class, the C. burnetii-specific antibody response over time was almost exclusively represented by subclass 1 molecules, which thus showed affinity maturation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1958-1967
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


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