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Coxiella burnetii is an obligate intracellular zoonotic bacterium that causes Q fever. Ruminants, including cattle, are broadly known to be reservoirs for this bacterium. Since 2006, many research groups have evaluated the herd-level prevalence of C. burnetii in cattle by molecular techniques on composite milk samples. This study explored the global C. burnetii herd-level prevalence from studies done on bovine bulk-tank milk (BTM) samples using PCR-based analysis. Also, moderators were investigated to identify sources of heterogeneity. Databases (CAB Abstracts, Medline via Ovid, PubMed, Web of Science and Google Scholar) were searched for index articles on C. burnetii prevalence in BTM samples by PCR published between January-1973 and November-2018. Numerous studies (1054) were initially identified, from which seventeen original publications were included in the meta-analysis based on the pre-defined selection criteria. These studies comprised 4031 BTM samples from twelve countries. A random-effects model was used because of considerable heterogeneity (I2 = 98%) to estimate the herd-level prevalence of C. burnetii as 37.0%(CI95%25.2–49.5%). The average herd size appeared to account for a high level of the heterogeneity. No other moderators (geographic location, gross national income or notification criteria for Q fever) seemed to be determinant. This systematic evaluation demonstrated a high molecular prevalence of C. burnetii in BTM samples both in European and non-European countries, evidencing a widespread herd-level circulation of this agent in bovine dairy farms around the world. Meta-regression showed herd size as the most relevant moderator with the odds of a BTM sample testing positive doubling with every unit increase.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100208
Number of pages9
JournalOne Health
Early online date24 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Dec 2020


  • Q fever
  • Coxiella burnetii
  • Coxiellosis
  • Meta-prevalence
  • 1111

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