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Five people from New York State and a Canadian woman were diagnosed as having the zoonotic disease Q fever after traveling to Germany in May 2014 for treatment known as live cell therapy, according to a recent report. All 6 saw the same physician and subsequently tested positive for Coxiella burnetii, the agent that causes Q fever (Robyn MP et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015;64:1071-1073).
Live cell therapy, which isn’t available in the United States, involves injections of processed cells from organs or fetuses of nonhuman animals—in this case, fetal sheep cells. Practitioners claim the xenotransplantation treatment has anti-aging effects and can treat erectile dysfunction, depression, and joint, neurologic, heart, kidney, lung, endocrine, and liver diseases. No published data support these therapeutic claims, but serious adverse events have been reported, including anaphylaxis, vasculitis, encephalitis, polyradiculitis, clostridial infections, and death. The 5 US residents had traveled to Germany for the injections twice a year for the last 5 years along with a group of up to 10 other people, according to the report.
Q Fever Linked With Xenotourism. JAMA. 2015;314(18):1907. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.14803