Local Land Services have funded a new DNA study into Q Fever aimed at testing and better identifying the disease in livestock.
While emphasis is growing around Q Fever prevention in humans with developments in vaccines and awareness campaigns, little is known about the spread of the bacterium, Coxiella burnetti, in livestock themselves.
Tests to detect Coxiella burnetti in animals are not widely accessible in Australia but the Central Tablelands Local Land Services is supporting DNA work at the Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory in Geelong.
The DNA test can detect the organism in tissue and body fluids like afterbirth.
Central Tablelands Local Land Services district vet Lucienne Downs said Q Fever, and its impact on livestock, was an area that people still didn't know enough about.
"We're working towards making a commercial DNA test for coxiellosis more readily available, and we'd also like to see a vaccine created for livestock," she said.
"At present in Australia there is a Q fever vaccine for humans, but there is nothing commercially available for animals."
Since 2015, Local Land Services district veterinarians have collected DNA samples from livestock and diagnostic tests of past exposures as part of an investigation into the bacteria's exposure in sheep, cattle and goat herds.
Their samples started locally, before expanding to other district and outside vets and are now seeking producers to gain samples from another 100 events.
The Central Tablelands Local Land Services team have tested more than 550 goats on 25 properties and about 200 cattle and sheep, with many herds returning positive results.
Infection is commonly transferred by contact with animal birth fluids and blood or simply via infected droplets or dust in the air.
Dr Downs said it was still unknown how often infected animals shed the bacteria.
"We don't really have a good understanding of how often Q Fever abortions may occur but we also know that it can occur in normal births where they are shedding the Q Fever (bacteria)," she said.
It is hoped the findings from the project and increased understanding of the livestock side of the disease could lead to an animal vaccine.
Microbiology and Parasitology research officer Ian Marsh, from NSW DPI's Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute, said they hoped to build on the knowledge gained from the human vaccine research to develop a commercial vaccine for livestock.
Producers are urged to report unexplained calving, lambing or kidding losses to their local vet for samples. For more email firstname.lastname@example.org