Q Fever Menu

The project

Implementation period

from: 01/09/2016
to: 31/08/2017

Detailed project description

Q fever is a highly infectious, airborne zoonosis caused by Coxiella burnetii bacterium. Although it rarely attracts media attention, it belongs to the most costly and severe infectious diseases. During the last decade, several outbreaks occurred in Europe including Hungary, resulting in economic losses from the unrealized reproductive potential of livestock and in several thousands of cases of human infection. Because many infections result in nonspecific or benign constitutional symptoms, establishing a diagnosis of Q fever is often challenging for clinicians. Various, mainly serological or molecular biology methods are currently used for diagnosis of the disease, but in numerous cases, they yield to ambiguous results. Thus, the development of an alternative analytical approach for an accurate identification of the bacterium is vitally important. Several attempts have been made to investigate characteristic biomarkers of C. burnetii. The majority of them relied on immunodetection after two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. To overcome disadvantages of this approach, we propose to apply a novel platform that enables to identify immunodominant proteins of C. burnetii in their native conformation, using a faster, less material-consuming, and more reliable protocol. It is based on immunocapturing of C.burnetii antigens by biofunctionalized magnetic microspheres followed by tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) identification. Alternatively, we will monitor metabolites secreted by the bacterium, using Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) mass spectrometry that allows unambiguous peak recognition and precise assignment of ions. The obtained result might be extremely useful for the implementation in diagnostic tool development or vaccine formulation.

"Visegrad feature" of this project

In the United States and in the founding member states of EU, several research laboratories are dealing with the fast identification and characterization of microorganisms that can be used as biological weapons. They receive massive support from their government to develop tests that will aid politicians in decision-making. However, in the smaller member states, including Visegrad countries, there is a need for the strategic network in order to ensure that all means for success are brought together.

Target groups and groups benefiting from the project

The existing research capacities in V4 that are dealing with the bacterium will be united in this project. Also, a firm connection with
healthcare providers, physicians, epidemiologists, veterinarians, and responsible public health authorities will be established. The targeted groups will be:
(1) patients with hitherto undiagnosed infectious diseases, who will benefit from improved diagnosis and disease
(2) Health care providers, including diagnostic microbiology laboratories, will benefit as they will improve their services.
(3) Public health officials, national and international policy makers and organisations can better prepare against re-emerging pathogen.
(4) The general population will benefit from both the medical, public health and the economic impact.

Expected outputs

  • Reviewing current laboratory diagnostic capabilities for C. burnetii in V4 countries.
  • Active surveillance or case finding for acute or chronic Q fever on a local level; sharing samples.
  • Discovery of novel immunodominant/immunoreactive proteins and specific metabolic biomarkers of the bacterium.
  • One general meeting for all partners.
  • One public information day to generate awareness for the infectious disease
  • Exchange visits or Short-Term Scientific Missions particularly for young researchers
  • A public internet presentation about the project and the partners.
  • Publishing papers in a peer-reviewed scientific journal with the most relevant findings of the project.

Planned public relations/promotional activities

We are going to promote the project activities to the general public via a Website. It will contain basic facts about Q fever and the causative agent, Coxiella burnetii. In addition, we will also organize a public information day to generate awareness for the infectious disease. During this day, a booklet will be distributed to the participants. Topics of the booklet include (i) basic information, (ii) recommendations, and (iii) guidelines for sampling and testing.

Previous experience in the field

Methodical approaches proposed in the project range from well-established methods and techniques used in molecular biology immunochemistry, proteomics, and metabolomics up to the latest approaches in these areas. They are promoted by modern instrument equipment of the partners, including extremely high-resolution ICR-FT-MS and ultra-high speed UPLC-ESI-MS/MS or MALDI — TOF/TOF systems. Employed methods and techniques represent today's state-of-the-art in the specific area of investigation. The applicants and partners have many years of experience in the field. Thus, the research team can declare full readiness to address the project and Iachieve its goals.

Continuation of the project

The social benefit of this project is primarily in patients' management and in public health. In the case of quick and accurate diagnosis of the disease, ineffective medication can be avoided and time of hospitalization and sick leave can be reduced. In addition to these economic benefits resulting from medical improvement, the project will provide an impulse to the public health and veterinary authorities. It will initiate an awareness campaign among healthcare providers in order to facilitate an early recognition of the disease during an outbreak. Moreover, the project will improve the competitiveness of the European diagnostic companies by providing opportunities to expand their diagnostic arsenal

Expected results and potential risks

The project may result in the discovery of novel immunodominant proteins and/or specific metabolic markers of the C. burnetii. These molecules may contribute to the design of safe vaccine or drugs affecting the disease treatment. However, we cannot completely avoid professional risks during the implementation of the project, we plan to minimize it by regular meetings of the project team.