As part of its life cycle Coxiella burnetii, the bacterial pathogen responsible for Q fever, replicates inside a membrane-bound compartment or "parasitophorous vacuole" (PV) within immune cells. The organism manipulates macrophages to create the PV as well as optimal conditions for growth.
Circumstantial evidence has suggested that C. burnetii is able to exert this control using proteins that are delivered via a mechanism called a Dot/Icm type IVB secretion system (T4BSS) which is critical for successful parasitism of macrophages by the organism.
Using new genetic tools, researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the University of Arkansas for Medical Science have finally verified that Dot/Icm function is in fact essential for productive infection of human macrophages by C. burnetii.
The research was published in mBio, an open access online journal published by the American Society for Microbiology to make microbiology research broadly accessible.