Research Week 2022 – Emily Mann, MD

Culture Negative Endocarditis and Recurrent Fevers

Emily Mann

Learning Objectives

  1. Recognize a common Q fever endocarditis presentation
  2. Define persistent focal Q fever
  3. Understanding the importance of lymphadenopathy in the setting of Q fever

A 40 year old male with a past medical history of rheumatic heart disease presented to

his primary care doctor for two years of worsening, intermittent fevers.

The patient had lived all over the world, including various parts of Africa and Europe. He

took no medications and used no illicit drugs. He worked in construction and lived in the

suburbs of Massachusetts with his family. He had no pets. His only exposure to

livestock was about three years prior to presentation at a fair.

Over the course of his evaluation for fevers, he began to have dyspnea on exertion and

orthopnea, so he underwent transthoracic echocardiogram. The echocardiogram

revealed a bicuspid aortic valve with a large mobile density and severe aortic

insufficiency, so he was admitted to the hospital for further work up.

Blood cultures were drawn prior to initiation of antibiotics and were negative. Labs were

significant for a normal white blood count and differential, mild anemia, normal platelets,

mildly elevated liver function tests, elevated inflammatory markers and an elevated

protein gap. MRI revealed massive splenomegaly and intra-abdominal

lymphadenopathy. Physical exam was significant only for a loud diastolic murmur over

the right upper sternal border and splenomegaly. Concern was primarily for subacute,

bacterial endocarditis, though the differential included malignancy and rheumatologic


Repeat blood cultures throughout the admission were negative, but empiric antibiotics

were started. Lactate dehydrogenase was within normal limits. Peripheral flow

cytometry was normal. Serum protein electrophoresis and immunofixation suggested

only generalized inflammation. Seven days following admission, his Q fever antibody

IGG and IGM returned positive and he was started on a prolonged course of

hydroxychloroquine and doxycycline with improvement of his fevers. He eventually

underwent aortic valve replacement and, following his 12 month antibiotic course, his

splenomegaly and lymphadenopathy resolved.

Despite this patient’s chronic fevers and endocarditis being classic features of persistent

focal Q fever, it was not highest on the differential. The clinical presentation of Q fever

varies significantly and this case demonstrates the importance of keeping Q fever on

the differential even when acute exposure is not obvious.


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Coxiella burnetii Infections From the French National Reference Center for Q Fever.

JAMA Netw Open. 2018;1(4):e181580. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.1580

  1. Angelakis, E., & Raoult, D. (2010). Q fever. Veterinary Microbiology, 140(3-4),


  1. Elzein, F. E., Alsherbeeni, N., Alnajashi, K., Alsufyani, E., Akhtar, M. Y., Albalawi, R.,

Albarrag, A. M., Kaabia, N., Mehdi, S., Alzahrani, A., & Raoult, D. (2019). Ten-year

experience of Q fever endocarditis in a tertiary cardiac center in Saudi Arabia.

International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 88, 21–26.

  1. Mark R. Armstrong, Kate L. McCarthy & Robert L. Horvath (2018) A contemporary

16-year review of Coxiella burnetii infective endocarditis in a tertiary cardiac center in

Queensland, Australia, Infectious Diseases, 50:7, 531-538, DOI:


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