Sheep x2Ok, call me risk averse, but traveling to another country to have someone inject me with cells from organs or fetuses of animals isn’t high on my to-do list. I guess that’s a good thing, given the recent article in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report describing Q-fever in people from New York who traveled to Germany for such a treatment.

Q-fever is a sometimes nasty and highly infectious disease caused by Coxiella burnetii, a bacterium that’s mainly associated with pregnant sheep and goats. The affected individuals in this report traveled to Germany for “live cell therapy,” which is advertised as a treatment of various disorders and (wisely) unavailable in the US. (However, I have little doubt that people are doing it, particularly in the sports medicine world.)

All affected individuals went to the same German physician and were injected with fetal sheep cells. The investigation started after Q fever was diagnosed in a Canadian woman who also saw the German physician for the same treatment just two days before the group of New Yorkers were there.  that had  The Public Health Agency of Canada notified German authorities, who happened to be investigating a Q-fever outbreak in Germany associated with “inhalation exposure to a sheep flock that was used for production of fetal sheep cells injection by the German physician” at the time. The authorities notified the physician, and the physician notified his patients (4 months after the treatment was done). Three of the Americans had already sought medical care for signs of Q-fever (although it’s not clear whether Q-fever had been suspected or diagnosed) while 2 others were sick but had not yet sought medical care. Three of the five still had symptoms such as fatigue, chills, sweats and difficulty sleeping 9-10 months after exposure, showing how this disease can be a long-lasting problem.

Common sense goes a long way, so does the “above all, do no harm” concept. Too bad those are often ignored.