Abstract: Long-term follow-up of patients from the 1989 Q fever outbreak: no evidence of excess cardiac disease in those with fatigue

Source: QJM 2002 Aug;95(8):539-46  Ayres JG, Wildman M, Groves J, Ment J, Smith EG, Beattie JM.  Departments of. Respiratory Medicine, Cardiology and. Microbiology, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham, UK.

BACKGROUND: In 1989, an outbreak of Q fever (C. burnetii infection) with 147 confirmed cases occurred in Solihull, West Midlands. Three patients developed cardiomyopathy in the subsequent 10 years. The cohort has been followed up with respect to the development of fatigue and, in this instance, cardiac effects after the original infection.

Aim: To determine whether persisting fatigue after Q fever represented sub-clinical cardiomyopathy.

DESIGN: Prospective follow-up study.

METHODS: All traceable subjects from the original outbreak, and community age-, sex- and smoking-matched controls, were studied. Questionnaires for idiopathic fatigue, 12-lead ECG, echocardiography, spirometry and shuttle walk distance were undertaken, and a subset with CDC-defined chronic fatigue syndrome had gated cardiac scans.

RESULTS:Of the original cohort, 19 had died, three had emigrated and 10 were untraceable. Of the remaining 115, 108 responded to a mailed questionnaire and 87 were investigated further, of whom 85 provided complete data. Two developed aortic valve vegetations, one of whom died. Chronic fatigue syndrome was found in 20% of cases and 5.3% of controls (including those with co-morbidities), falling to 8.2% and 0 when excluding those with co-morbidities. There were no significant differences in ECG and echocardiographic investigations or shuttle-walk distance between those with fatigue and those without. Six of the seven patients with CFS had gated cardiac scans: all were within normal limits.

CONCLUSIONS:These findings do not support the existence of a sub-clinical cardiomyopathy in the patients in this cohort who suffer from fatigue after acute Q fever, although endocarditis can occur after acute infection.

PMID: 12145393 [PubMed – in process]

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