Q fever. Was Edward Derrick’s contribution undervalued?

Robin A Cooke
Med J Aust 2008; 189 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2008.tb02233.x
Published online: 1 December 2008

The 21 August 1937 issue of the Medical Journal of Australia contained two articles on a hitherto unknown disease affecting abattoir workers and farmers — Q fever (with the “Q” standing for query).The first of these was by Edward Holbrook Derrick, Director of the Laboratory of Microbiology and Pathology, Queensland Health Department, Brisbane, and comprised his meticulous clinical descriptions and subsequent experiments to isolate the causative organism.1 During his research, Derrick sought the help of Frank Macfarlane Burnet, and the second article by Burnet and Mavis Freeman from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne described their identification of the causative agent.2

  • Robin A Cooke

  • University of Queensland Medical School and Queensland Health Pathology Services, Brisbane, QLD.



The illustrations are published with the approval of the Director of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research. The coloured drawing of the organism seen by Burnet is reproduced from the original article with the permission of the Editor of the MJA. Professor Barrie Marmion, Adelaide, assisted with the preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests:

None identified.


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