AIMS--To determine whether Coxiella burnetii, the aetiological agent of Q fever, undergoes endogenous spore-like formation, the crucial stage of the developmental cycle, in the infected cardiac valves of patients with chronic Q fever endocarditis. METHODS--Surgically removed valves from three cases of Q fever endocarditis were processed for electron microscopy. Sections were stained with potassium permanganate and uranyl acetate before being extensively examined by transmission electron microscopy. RESULTS--In all three cases endogenous spore-like formation was seen in the infected cardiac valves. CONCLUSIONS--As the factors that govern sporogenesis in C burnetii are still largely unknown, it is uncertain how important are the implications of the discovery of endogenous spore-like formation in Q fever endocarditis. However, this finding may add new dimensions to current thinking about the treatment of chronic Q fever.
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