Q fever drastically increases chance of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Coxiella burnetii, the bacterium that causes Q Fever. | Courtesy of the NIAID Biodefense Image Library
A study that appeared recently in the Journal of the American Society of Hematology indicates there is an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma after Q fever.

While doctors have previously reported that those with non-Hodgkin lymphoma have also developed Q fever, they thought that this kind of cancer was a risk factor for the disease. One patient spurred this study after developing a tumor near the previous Q fever infection.

Q fever is caused by the Coxiella burnetii bacterium and is primarily transmitted through infected waste of cattle, goats and sheep. Among the public, Q fever affects approximately 3 percent of U.S. adults. This increases to 10 to 20 percent for farmers, veterinarians and others who work with these animals.

Through evaluating the number of lymphoma cases across the general public in France compared with those within the Q fever registry, researchers found that patients with Q fever were 25 times more likely to develop diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

"As we continue to learn more about the association between C. burnetii and lymphoma, these results should encourage clinicians to survey high-risk patients as early as possible for potential cancer," lead study author Didier Raoult said. "Ultimately, this early diagnosis and treatment would improve outcomes for Q fever patients who subsequently develop lymphoma, particularly those with B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma."

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