The cryptically named Q fever, a bacterial infection (shown in yellow bursting through a cell membrane) that afflicts sufferers with bouts of high temperature and flu-like symptoms, didn't spring out of a stealthy government department. It was diagnosed in 1933 in Australian abattoir workers in Queensland, and was first nicknamed 'abattoir fever', then Queensland fever, before being renamed Q – for query – fever to avoid offending the meat industry or Queensland. Though antibiotics today treat Q fever effectively, most sufferers also tend to reach for fever-quenching pills at the slightest sign of fever. But research shows that the fever is beneficial. Our immune system helpfully raises our body temperature by releasing chemicals in blood vessels in the brain to hamper bacteria and promote the growth of white blood cells and interferon proteins that attack intruders.
Written by Tristan Farrow
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