Q fever: How common is it and how can we best prevent it? Research to inform vaccine policy for Australia and internationally
The aim of the project is to utilise the population of Australian veterinary workers and students as a sentinel group to investigate efficacy, adverse events and immunological status following Q fever vaccination as well as to assess general attitudes and knowledge towards zoonotic infection control.
Q fever is a ubiquitous zoonotic disease of worldwide importance caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii. Traditional thinking is that domestic livestock (cattle, goats and sheep) are the main reservoir of infection however this bacterium is also found in a range of wild and domestic species including mammals, birds, and arthropods. Recent outbreaks in Australia have been identified to be associated with dog and cat in small animal veterinary practice. Infected animals shed large quantities of C. burnetii into the environment through their products of conception but also via urine, milk and faeces. Humans are the species most significantly clinically affected by infection resulting in acute and chronic disease manifestations although reproductive failure is reported in cattle, sheep and goats. Q fever has recently gained attention internationally due to an extensive outbreak in the Netherlands however Australia is currently the only country in the world with a vaccine registered for use in humans. The reluctance of the Netherlands to vaccinate humans during this outbreak highlighted the lack of knowledge about the Australian vaccine. Australia's veterinary workforce and student cohort is an ideal subset of the population to act as sentinels to assess the relative risk of transmission of Q fever by different animal species. They are a diverse group with variable exposures to different animal species from the traditional high risk livestock vet, to small animal and zoo vets, to jobs with minimal animal exposure. In addition, there are more than 20,000 veterinary nurses, a predominantly unvaccinated group, whose knowledge and attitudes to Q fever and barriers to vaccine uptake have never been explored. The aim of this study will be to gain information from Australian veterinary personnel on their knowledge, attitudes and assessment of risk, as well as their response and immunity following vaccination which we envision will be essential to inform future vaccination practices for veterinarians and allied veterinary staff and the community at large.
This project will form part of a larger NHMRC-funded collaborative project between veterinary and medical colleagues from NSW and Queensland. It provides an excellent postgraduate student training opportunity with potential to gain skills in epidemiology, microbiology and immunology as well as to interact with medical and veterinary researchers to determine the importance of Q fever in the veterinary community as well as the broader Australian population. The project may involve extensive travel. It is anticipated that the student appointed to this project will be a veterinary, animal/veterinary bioscience or science graduate. It is anticipated that the successful candidate will apply for an Australian Postgraduate Award (which involves a tax exempt stipend of approximately $23,729 p.a. for 3 years) and there is potential for a tax exempt "top up" to $35,000 p.a. dependent on the skills and experience of the successful candidate. Applicants must be Australian or New Zealand citizens or permanent residents.
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The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1667
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