During the Q fever outbreak from 2007-2010, an unprecedented number of people became infected with the Q fever bacterium Coxiella burnetii. Some of them developed chronic Q fever, in which vessel walls and heart valves become infected. About half of them developed complications, such as heart failure or a ruptured aorta. The prognosis is often unfavorable. Of all patients who die of chronic Q fever, 55 percent died within one year of diagnosis.
The data from patients with chronic Q fever is collected in the National Chronic Q Fever Database, a collaboration between University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht, Radboudumc in Nijmegen and Jeroen Bosch Hospital in ‘s Hertogenbosch. In 2016, this database contained data from 439 patients. In that year, it appeared that 65 patients had died of the effects of chronic Q fever since the outbreak. With the 9 patients who had died due to acute Q fever, the total number of patients who had died as a result of Q fever in 2016 was 74.
Bianca Buijs, investigator and resident internal medicine at UMC Utrecht, updated the database again last year. Currently she has registered 519 chronic Q fever patients. The increase is almost entirely due to patients who have been diagnosed with chronic Q fever after 2016. In 2018, 86 patients were registered who died from the consequences of chronic Q fever, 21 more than in 2016. The total number of patients who died as a result of Q fever (acute and chronic) was therefore 95.
Internist-infectiologist Chantal Bleeker at Radboudumc is one of the collaborators of the database research and treats many patients with chronic Q fever: “Many people think that the Q-fever epidemic is now over. If you would ask me in 2010 if I thought that in 2018 people still would die of Q fever, my answer was ‘no’. But there are still chronic Q fever patients, and people are still dying. This underlines the great importance of attention for and research on chronic Q fever. ”
National Chronic Q Fever Database
The Dutch Q fever outbreak, the largest ever in the world, has led to a significant number of chronic Q fever patients. In the National Chronic Q Fever Database, since 2010 data from all chronic Q fever patients are being collected from 45 hospitals. Chronic Q fever is a rare condition and due to the limited number of patients, research in this group is complicated. The database is a collaboration between UMC Utrecht, Radboudumc and the Jeroen Bosch Hospital, led by internist-infectiologist Jan-Jelrik Oosterheert (UMC Utrecht), internist-infectiologist Chantal Bleeker-Rovers (Radboudumc) and physician-microbiologist Peter Wever (Jeroen Bosch Hospital ) who are responsible for the contents of the database. Bianca Buijs (UMC Utrecht) is the third PhD student who has updated the National Chronic Q Fever Database and is trying to answer research questions with the data from this database.