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1.  Molecular epidemiology of the emerging zoonosis agent Anaplasma phagocytophilum (Foggie, 1949) in dogs and ixodid ticks in Brazil 
Parasites & Vectors  2013;6:348.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an emerging pathogen of humans, dogs and other animals, and it is transmitted by ixodid ticks. The objective of the current study was a) detect A. phagocytophilum in dogs and ixodid ticks using real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR); and b) Determine important variables associated to host, environment and potential tick vectors that are related to the presence of A. phagocytophilum in dogs domiciled in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
We tested blood samples from 398 dogs and samples from 235 ticks, including 194 Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu lato, 15 Amblyomma cajennense, 8 Amblyomma ovale and 18 pools of Amblyomma sp. nymphs. A semi-structured questionnaire was applied by interviewing each dog owner. Deoxyribonucleic acid obtained from ticks and dog buffy coat samples were amplified by qPCR (msp2 gene). The sequencing of 16S rRNA and groESL heat shock operon genes and a phylogenetic analysis was performed. The multiple logistic regression model was created as a function of testing positive dogs for A. phagocytophilum.
Among the 398 blood samples from dogs, 6.03% were positive for A. phagocytophilum. Anaplasma phagocytophilum was detected in one A. cajennense female tick and in five R. sanguineus sensu lato ticks (four males and one female). The partial sequences of the 16S rRNA, and groESL genes obtained were highly similar to strains of A. phagocytophilum isolated from wild birds from Brazil and human pathogenic strains. The tick species collected in positive dogs were R. sanguineus sensu lato and A. cajennense, with A.cajennense being predominant. Tick infestation history (OR = 2.86, CI = 1.98-14.87), dog size (OR = 2.41, IC: 1.51-12.67), the access to forest areas (OR = 3:51, CI: 1.52-16.32), hygiene conditions of the environment in which the dogs lived (OR = 4.35, CI: 1.86-18.63) and Amblyomma sp. infestation (OR = 6.12; CI: 2.11-28.15) were associated with A. phagocytophilum infection in dogs.
This is the first report of A. phagocytophilum in ixodid ticks from Brazil. The detection of A. phagocitophylum in A. cajennense, an aggressive feeder on a wide variety of hosts, including humans, is considered a public health concern.
PMCID: PMC3874603  PMID: 24330631
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Dogs; Ticks; Epidemiology; Emerging zoonoses
2.  Circulation of four Anaplasma phagocytophilum ecotypes in Europe 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7(1):365.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the etiological agent of granulocytic anaplasmosis in humans and animals. Wild animals and ticks play key roles in the enzootic cycles of the pathogen. Potential ecotypes of A. phagocytophilum have been characterized genetically, but their host range, zoonotic potential and transmission dynamics has only incompletely been resolved.
The presence of A. phagocytophilum DNA was determined in more than 6000 ixodid ticks collected from the vegetation and wildlife, in 289 tissue samples from wild and domestic animals, and 69 keds collected from deer, originating from various geographic locations in The Netherlands and Belgium. From the qPCR-positive lysates, a fragment of the groEL-gene was amplified and sequenced. Additional groEL sequences from ticks and animals from Europe were obtained from GenBank, and sequences from human cases were obtained through literature searches. Statistical analyses were performed to identify A. phagocytophilum ecotypes, to assess their host range and their zoonotic potential. The population dynamics of A. phagocytophilum ecotypes was investigated using population genetic analyses.
DNA of A. phagocytophilum was present in all stages of questing and feeding Ixodes ricinus, feeding I. hexagonus, I. frontalis, I. trianguliceps, and deer keds, but was absent in questing I. arboricola and Dermacentor reticulatus. DNA of A. phagocytophilum was present in feeding ticks and tissues from many vertebrates, including roe deer, mouflon, red foxes, wild boar, sheep and hedgehogs but was rarely found in rodents and birds and was absent in badgers and lizards. Four geographically dispersed A. phagocytophilum ecotypes were identified, that had significantly different host ranges. All sequences from human cases belonged to only one of these ecotypes. Based on population genetic parameters, the potentially zoonotic ecotype showed significant expansion.
Four ecotypes of A. phagocytophilum with differential enzootic cycles were identified. So far, all human cases clustered in only one of these ecotypes. The zoonotic ecotype has the broadest range of wildlife hosts. The expansion of the zoonotic A. phagocytophilum ecotype indicates a recent increase of the acarological risk of exposure of humans and animals.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1756-3305-7-365) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4153903  PMID: 25127547
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Zoonoses; Ixodes ricinus; Wildlife; Epidemiology
3.  Multilocus sequence analysis of Anaplasma phagocytophilum reveals three distinct lineages with different host ranges in clinically ill French cattle 
Veterinary Research  2014;45:114.
Molecular epidemiology represents a powerful approach to elucidate the complex epidemiological cycles of multi-host pathogens, such as Anaplasma phagocytophilum. A. phagocytophilum is a tick-borne bacterium that affects a wide range of wild and domesticated animals. Here, we characterized its genetic diversity in populations of French cattle; we then compared the observed genotypes with those found in horses, dogs, and roe deer to determine whether genotypes of A. phagocytophilum are shared among different hosts. We sampled 120 domesticated animals (104 cattle, 13 horses, and 3 dogs) and 40 wild animals (roe deer) and used multilocus sequence analysis on nine loci (ankA, msp4, groESL, typA, pled, gyrA, recG, polA, and an intergenic region) to characterize the genotypes of A. phagocytophilum present. Phylogenic analysis revealed three genetic clusters of bacterial variants in domesticated animals. The two principal clusters included 98% of the bacterial genotypes found in cattle, which were only distantly related to those in roe deer. One cluster comprised only cattle genotypes, while the second contained genotypes from cattle, horses, and dogs. The third contained all roe deer genotypes and three cattle genotypes. Geographical factors could not explain this clustering pattern. These results suggest that roe deer do not contribute to the spread of A. phagocytophilum in cattle in France. Further studies should explore if these different clusters are associated with differing disease severity in domesticated hosts. Additionally, it remains to be seen if the three clusters of A. phagocytophilum genotypes in cattle correspond to distinct epidemiological cycles, potentially involving different reservoir hosts.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13567-014-0114-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4334609  PMID: 25487348
4.  Molecular characterization of Anaplasma platys strains from dogs in Sicily, Italy 
The genetic diversity of Anaplasma platys (Rickettsiales: Anaplasmataceae) strains is currently poorly defined. The present study was designed to characterize A. patys strains in dogs from Palermo, Sicily, Italy, using a combination of PCR and sequence analysis of the 16S rDNA, heat shock operon groESL and citrate synthase (gltA) genes.
Blood was collected from 344 dogs (111 pet dogs, 122 pound dogs and 111 hunting dogs) during 2003–2005 in the Province of Palermo, Sicily, Italy. The prevalence of A. platys in dogs in Sicily, as demonstrated by PCR and sequence analysis of the 16S rDNA, groESL and gltA genes, was 4%. None of the samples were positive for A. marginale, A. centrale, A. ovis and A. phagocytophilum DNA. Three different gltA genotypes of A. platys were identified in dogs from Sicily. Two of the gltA sequences of Sicilian A. platys strains were different from sequences reported previously. However, one of the gltA, 16S rDNA and groESL sequences were identical to the sequence of A. platys strains from other regions of the world characterized previously.
At least three different strains of A. platys were identified in dogs from Sicily by PCR and sequence analyses of the 16S rDNA, groESL and gltA genes. The results reported herein suggested that genetic diversity of A. platys strains may be similar to A. ovis, but lower than the diversity reported for A. marginale and A. phagocytophilum. This lower genetic diversity may have resulted from restricted movement of infected hosts compared to A. marginale-infected cattle and/or the limited host range of A. ovis and A. platys as compared with A. phagocytophilum. These results expand our knowledge about A. platys and encourage further research for analysis of the genetic variation of A. platys strains worldwide.
PMCID: PMC1550391  PMID: 16872489
5.  Prevalence of Neoehrlichia mikurensis in ticks and rodents from North-west Europe 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:74.
Neoehrlichia mikurensis s an emerging and vector-borne zoonosis: The first human disease cases were reported in 2010. Limited information is available about the prevalence and distribution of Neoehrlichia mikurensis in Europe, its natural life cycle and reservoir hosts. An Ehrlichia-like schotti variant has been described in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks, which could be identical to Neoehrlichia mikurensis.
Three genetic markers, 16S rDNA, gltA and GroEL, of Ehrlichia schotti-positive tick lysates were amplified, sequenced and compared to sequences from Neoehrlichia mikurensis. Based on these DNA sequences, a multiplex real-time PCR was developed to specifically detect Neoehrlichia mikurensis in combination with Anaplasma phagocytophilum in tick lysates. Various tick species from different life-stages, particularly Ixodes ricinus nymphs, were collected from the vegetation or wildlife. Tick lysates and DNA derived from organs of wild rodents were tested by PCR-based methods for the presence of Neoehrlichia mikurensis. Prevalence of Neoehrlichia mikurensis was calculated together with confidence intervals using Fisher's exact test.
The three genetic markers of Ehrlichia schotti-positive field isolates were similar or identical to Neoehrlichia mikurensis. Neoehrlichia mikurensis was found to be ubiquitously spread in the Netherlands and Belgium, but was not detected in the 401 tick samples from the UK. Neoehrlichia mikurensis was found in nymphs and adult Ixodes ricinus ticks, but neither in their larvae, nor in any other tick species tested. Neoehrlichia mikurensis was detected in diverse organs of some rodent species. Engorging ticks from red deer, European mouflon, wild boar and sheep were found positive for Neoehrlichia mikurensis.
Ehrlichia schotti is similar, if not identical, to Neoehrlichia mikurensis. Neoehrlichia mikurensis is present in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks throughout the Netherlands and Belgium. We propose that Ixodes ricinus can transstadially, but not transovarially, transmit this microorganism, and that different rodent species may act as reservoir hosts. These data further imply that wildlife and humans are frequently exposed to Neoehrlichia mikurensis-infected ticks through tick bites. Future studies should aim to investigate to what extent Neoehrlichia mikurensis poses a risk to public health.
PMCID: PMC3395572  PMID: 22515314
Vector-borne disease; Emerging zoonoses; Candidatus N. mikurensis; I. ricinus; Anaplasma phagocytophylum
6.  High Diversity of ankA Sequences of Anaplasma phagocytophilum among Ixodes ricinus Ticks in Germany 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2003;41(11):5033-5040.
In Germany humans with acute granulocytic ehrlichiosis have not yet been described. Here, we characterized three different genes of Anaplasma phagocytophilum strains infecting German Ixodes ricinus ticks in order to test whether they differ from strains in other European countries and the United States. A total of 1,022 I. ricinus ticks were investigated for infection with A. phagocytophilum by nested PCR and sequence analysis. Forty-two (4.1%) ticks were infected. For all positive ticks, parts of the 16S rRNA and groESL genes were sequenced. The complete coding sequence of the ankA gene could be determined in 24 samples. The 16S rRNA and groESL gene sequences were as much as 100% identical to known sequences. Fifteen ankA sequences were ≥99.37% identical to sequences derived from humans with granulocytic ehrlichiosis in Europe and from a horse with granulocytic ehrlichiosis in Germany. Thus, German I. ricinus ticks most likely harbor A. phagocytophilum strains that can cause disease in humans. Nine additional sequences were clearly different from known ankA sequences. Because these newly described sequences have never been obtained from diseased humans or animals, their biological significance is currently unknown. Based on this unexpected sequence heterogeneity, we propose to use the ankA gene for further phylogenetic analyses of A. phagocytophilum and to investigate the biology and pathogenicity of strains that differ in the ankA gene.
PMCID: PMC262509  PMID: 14605135
7.  Molecular Evidence of Anaplasma phagocytophilum in Ixodes ricinus Ticks and Wild Animals in Austria 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2004;42(5):2285-2286.
Real-time PCR analysis of a groESL heat shock operon segment showed the presence of two genetic lineages of Anaplasma phagocytophilum in Ixodes ricinus ticks as well as one variant in wild red and roe deer, the latter supposedly representing the natural reservoir of one variant of A. phagocytophilum.
PMCID: PMC404603  PMID: 15131214
8.  Anaplasma phagocytophilum strains from voles and shrews exhibit specific ankA gene sequences 
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is a Gram-negative bacterium that replicates obligate intracellularly in neutrophils. It is transmitted by Ixodes spp. ticks and causes acute febrile disease in humans, dogs, horses, cats, and livestock. Because A. phagocytophilum is not transmitted transovarially in Ixodes spp., it is thought to depend on reservoir hosts to complete its life cycle. In Europe, A. phagocytophilum was detected in roe deer, red deer, wild boars, and small mammals. In contrast to roe deer, red deer and wild boars have been considered as reservoir hosts for granulocytic anaplasmosis in humans, dogs, and horses according to groESL- and ankA-based genotyping. A. phagocytophilum variants infecting small mammals in Europe have not been characterized extensively to date.
We amplified the total ankA open reading frames of 27 strains from voles and shrews. The analysis revealed that they harboured A. phagocytophilum strains that belonged to a distinct newly described ankA gene cluster. Further, we provide evidence that the heterogeneity of ankA gene sequences might have arisen via recombination.
Based on ankA-based genotyping voles and shrews are unlikely reservoir hosts for granulocytic anaplasmosis in humans, dogs, horses, and livestock in Europe.
PMCID: PMC4220824  PMID: 24283328
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Voles; Shrews; Genotyping; ankA gene; Recombination
9.  Infections and Coinfections of Questing Ixodes ricinus Ticks by Emerging Zoonotic Pathogens in Western Switzerland 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(13):4606-4612.
In Europe, Ixodes ricinus is the vector of many pathogens of medical and veterinary relevance, among them Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and tick-borne encephalitis virus, which have been the subject of numerous investigations. Less is known about the occurrence of emerging tick-borne pathogens like Rickettsia spp., Babesia spp., “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis,” and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in questing ticks. In this study, questing nymph and adult I. ricinus ticks were collected at 11 sites located in Western Switzerland. A total of 1,476 ticks were analyzed individually for the simultaneous presence of B. burgdorferi sensu lato, Rickettsia spp., Babesia spp., “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis,” and A. phagocytophilum. B. burgdorferi sensu lato, Rickettsia spp., and “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” were detected in ticks at all sites with global prevalences of 22.5%, 10.2%, and 6.4%, respectively. Babesia- and A. phagocytophilum-infected ticks showed a more restricted geographic distribution, and their prevalences were lower (1.9% and 1.5%, respectively). Species rarely reported in Switzerland, like Borrelia spielmanii, Borrelia lusitaniae, and Rickettsia monacensis, were identified. Infections with more than one pathogenic species, involving mostly Borrelia spp. and Rickettsia helvetica, were detected in 19.6% of infected ticks. Globally, 34.2% of ticks were infected with at least one pathogen. The diversity of tick-borne pathogens detected in I. ricinus in this study and the frequency of coinfections underline the need to take them seriously into consideration when evaluating the risks of infection following a tick bite.
PMCID: PMC3370488  PMID: 22522688
10.  Genetic variants of Anaplasma phagocytophilum from 14 equine granulocytic anaplasmosis cases 
Parasites & Vectors  2011;4:161.
Equine Granulocytic Anaplasmosis (EGA) is caused by Anaplasma phagocytophilum, a tick-transmitted, obligate intracellular bacterium. In Europe, it is transmitted by Ixodes ricinus. A large number of genetic variants of A. phagocytophilum circulate in nature and have been found in ticks and different animals. Attempts have been made to assign certain genetic variants to certain host species or pathologies, but have not been successful so far. The purpose of this study was to investigate the causing agent A. phagocytophilum of 14 cases of EGA in naturally infected horses with molecular methods on the basis of 4 partial genes (16S rRNA, groEL, msp2, and msp4).
All DNA extracts of EDTA-blood samples of the horses gave bands of the correct nucleotide size in all four genotyping PCRs. Sequence analysis revealed 4 different variants in the partial 16S rRNA, groEL gene and msp2 genes, and 3 in the msp4 gene. One 16S rRNA gene variant involved in 11 of the 14 cases was identical to the "prototype" variant causing disease in humans in the amplified part [GenBank: U02521]. Phylogenetic analysis revealed as expected for the groEL gene that sequences from horses clustered separately from roe deer. Sequences of the partial msp2 gene from this study formed a separate cluster from ruminant variants in Europe and from all US variants.
The results show that more than one variant of A. phagocytophilum seems to be involved in EGA in Germany. The comparative genetic analysis of the variants involved points towards different natural cycles in the epidemiology of A. phagocytophilum, possibly involving different reservoir hosts or host adaptation, rather than a strict species separation.
PMCID: PMC3170280  PMID: 21843364
11.  Novel Genetic Variants of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Anaplasma bovis, Anaplasma centrale, and a Novel Ehrlichia sp. in Wild Deer and Ticks on Two Major Islands in Japan 
Wild deer are one of the important natural reservoir hosts of several species of Ehrlichia and Anaplasma that cause human ehrlichiosis or anaplasmosis in the United States and Europe. The primary aim of the present study was to determine whether and what species of Ehrlichia and Anaplasma naturally infect deer in Japan. Blood samples obtained from wild deer on two major Japanese islands, Hokkaido and Honshu, were tested for the presence of Ehrlichia and Anaplasma by PCR assays and sequencing of the 16S rRNA genes, major outer membrane protein p44 genes, and groESL. DNA representing four species and two genera of Ehrlichia and Anaplasma was identified in 33 of 126 wild deer (26%). DNA sequence analysis revealed novel strains of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, a novel Ehrlichia sp., Anaplasma centrale, and Anaplasma bovis in the blood samples from deer. None of these have been found previously in deer. The new Ehrlichia sp., A. bovis, and A. centrale were also detected in Hemaphysalis longicornis ticks from Honshu Island. These results suggest that enzootic cycles of Ehrlichia and Anaplasma species distinct from those found in the United States or Europe have been established in wild deer and ticks in Japan.
PMCID: PMC1392898  PMID: 16461655
12.  Molecular characterization reveals distinct genospecies of Anaplasma phagocytophilum from diverse North American hosts 
Journal of Medical Microbiology  2012;61(Pt 2):204-212.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an emerging tick-borne pathogen that infects humans, domestic animals and wildlife throughout the Holarctic. In the far-western United States, multiple rodent species have been implicated as natural reservoirs for A. phagocytophilum. However, the presence of multiple A. phagocytophilum strains has made it difficult to determine which reservoir hosts pose the greatest risk to humans and domestic animals. Here we characterized three genetic markers (23S–5S rRNA intergenic spacer, ank and groESL) from 73 real-time TaqMan PCR-positive A. phagocytophilum strains infecting multiple rodent and reptile species, as well as a dog and a horse, from California. Bayesian and maximum-likelihood phylogenetic analyses of all three genetic markers consistently identified two major clades, one of which consisted of A. phagocytophilum strains infecting woodrats and the other consisting of strains infecting sciurids (chipmunks and squirrels) as well as the dog and horse strains. In addition, analysis of the 23S–5S rRNA spacer region identified two unique and highly dissimilar clades of A. phagocytophilum strains infecting several lizard species. Our findings indicate that multiple unique strains of A. phagocytophilum with distinct host tropisms exist in California. Future epidemiological studies evaluating human and domestic animal risk should incorporate these distinctions.
PMCID: PMC3352158  PMID: 21921109
13.  Delineating Anaplasma phagocytophilum Ecotypes in Coexisting, Discrete Enzootic Cycles 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2009;15(12):1948-1954.
Genetically distinct subpopulations have adapted to different niches
The emerging tick-borne pathogen Anaplasma phagocytophilum is under increasing scrutiny for the existence of subpopulations that are adapted to different natural cycles. Here, we characterized the diversity of A. phagocytophilum genotypes circulating in a natural system that includes multiple hosts and at least 2 tick species, Ixodes ricinus and the small mammal specialist I. trianguliceps. We encountered numerous genotypes, but only 1 in rodents, with the remainder limited to deer and host-seeking I. ricinus ticks. The absence of the rodent-associated genotype from host-seeking I. ricinus ticks was notable because we demonstrated that rodents fed a large proportion of the I. ricinus larval population and that these larvae were abundant when infections caused by the rodent-associated genotype were prevalent. These observations are consistent with the conclusion that genotypically distinct subpopulations of A. phagocytophilum are restricted to coexisting but separate enzootic cycles and suggest that this restriction may result from specific vector compatibility.
PMCID: PMC3044514  PMID: 19961674
Bacteria; anaplasma; vector-borne infections; ticks; arthropod vectors; infectious disease reservoirs; communicable disease transmission; biological adaptation; research
14.  Identity of Ehrlichial DNA Sequences Derived from Ixodes ricinus Ticks with Those Obtained from Patients with Human Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis in Slovenia 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1999;37(1):209-210.
Adult Ixodes ricinus (Acari: Ixodidae) ticks collected near Ljubljana, Slovenia, were tested for the agent of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) by using PCR assays based on the 16S rRNA gene. Three (3.2%) of 93 ticks were found to contain granulocytic ehrlichiae. Nucleotide sequences of portions of the bacterial groESL heat shock operon amplified from these ticks were identical or nearly (99.8%) identical to those previously determined for human patients with HGE from Slovenia, providing additional evidence that the ticks were infected with the HGE agent. This study identified I. ricinus as the likely vector for these ehrlichial pathogens of humans in this part of Europe.
PMCID: PMC84210  PMID: 9854093
15.  Temporal and spatial variation in Anaplasma phagocytophilum infection in Swedish moose (Alces alces) 
Epidemiology and Infection  2013;142(6):1205-1213.
The occurrence of Anaplasma phagocytophilum was investigated in spleen and serum samples from Swedish moose (Alces alces) in southern Sweden (island and mainland). Samples were analysed for presence of A. phagocytophilum DNA by real-time PCR (n = 263), and for Anaplasma antibodies with ELISA serology (n = 234). All serum samples had antibodies against A. phagocytophilum. The mean DNA-based prevalence was 26·3%, and significant (P < 0·01) temporal, and spatial variation was found. Island moose had significantly (P < 0·001) higher prevalence of A. phagocytophilum DNA than moose from the mainland areas. Two samples were sequenced to determine genetic variation in the 16S rRNA and groESL genes. Genetic sequence similarity with the human granulocytic anaplasmosis agent, equine granulocytic ehrlichiosis agent, and different wildlife-associated A. phagocytophilum variants were observed in the 16S rRNA and groESL genes. Our study shows that moose are exposed to A. phagocytophilum in Sweden, and represent a potential wildlife reservoir of the pathogen.
PMCID: PMC4045167  PMID: 24001524
Ehrlichia; epidemiology; HGA; moose; PCR; serology; tick-borne fever
16.  A new multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis reveals different clusters for Anaplasma phagocytophilum circulating in domestic and wild ruminants 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7(1):439.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is a tick-borne intragranulocytic alpha-proteobacterium. It is the causative agent of tick-borne fever in ruminants, and of human granulocytic anaplasmosis in humans, two diseases which are becoming increasingly recognized in Europe and the USA. However, while several molecular typing tools have been developed over the last years, few of them are appropriate for in-depth exploration of the epidemiological cycle of this bacterium. Therefore we have developed a Multiple-Locus Variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) Analysis typing technique for A. phagocytophilum.
Five VNTRs were selected based on the HZ human-derived strain genome, and were tested on the Webster human-derived strain and on 123 DNA samples: 67 from cattle, 7 from sheep, 15 from roe deer, 4 from red deer, 1 from a reindeer, 2 from horses, 1 from a dog, and 26 from ticks.
From these samples, we obtained 84 different profiles, with a diversity index of 0.96 (0.99 for vertebrate samples, i.e. without tick samples). Our technique confirmed that A. phagocytophilum from roe deer or domestic ruminants belong to two different clusters, while A. phagocytophilum from red deer and domestic ruminants locate within the same cluster, questioning the respective roles of roe vs red deer as reservoir hosts for domestic ruminant strains in Europe. As expected, greater diversity was obtained between rather than within cattle herds.
Our technique has great potential to provide detailed information on A. phagocytophilum isolates, improving both epidemiological and phylogenic investigations, thereby helping in the development of relevant prevention and control measures.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1756-3305-7-439) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4262125  PMID: 25228371
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; MLVA; VNTR; Epidemiology; Reservoir; Wild ruminants; Domestic ruminants
17.  Transovarial Transmission of Francisella-Like Endosymbionts and Anaplasma phagocytophilum Variants in Dermacentor albipictus (Acari: Ixodidae) 
Journal of medical entomology  2009;46(3):625-632.
Dermacentor albipictus (Packard) is a North American tick that feeds on cervids and livestock. It is a suspected vector of anaplasmosis in cattle, but its microbial flora and vector potential remain underevaluated. We screened D. albipictus ticks collected from Minnesota white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) for bacteria of the genera Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Francisella, and Rickettsia using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) gene amplification and sequence analyses. We detected Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Francisella-like endosymbionts (FLEs) in nymphal and adult ticks of both sexes at 45 and 94% prevalences, respectively. The A. phagocytophilum and FLEs were transovarially transmitted to F1 larvae by individual ticks at efficiencies of 10–40 and 95–100%, respectively. The FLEs were transovarially transmitted to F2 larvae obtained as progeny of adults from F1 larval ticks reared to maturity on a calf, but A. phagocytophilum were not. Based on PCR and tissue culture inoculation assays, A. phagocytophilum and FLEs were not transmitted to the calf. The amplified FLE 16S rRNA gene sequences were identical to that of an FLE detected in a D. albipictus from Texas, whereas those of the A. phagocytophilum were nearly identical to those of probable human-nonpathogenic A. phagocytophilum WI-1 and WI-2 variants detected in white-tailed deer from central Wisconsin. However, the D. albipictus A. phagocytophilum sequences differed from that of the nonpathogenic A. phagocytophilum variant-1 associated with Ixodes scapularis ticks and white-tailed deer as well as that of the human-pathogenic A. phagocytophilum ha variant associated with I. scapularis and the white-footed mouse, Peromyscus leucopus. The transovarial transmission of A. phagocytophilum variants in Dermacentor ticks suggests that maintenance of A. phagocytophilum in nature may not be solely dependent on horizontal transmission.
PMCID: PMC2751609  PMID: 19496436
Ixodid tick; Anaplasma; Francisella-like; transovarial transmission
18.  Ixodes ricinus abundance and its infection with the tick-borne pathogens in urban and suburban areas of Eastern Slovakia 
Parasites & Vectors  2013;6:238.
Raising abundance of ticks and tick-borne diseases in Europe is the result of multiple factors including climate changes and human activities. Herein, we investigated the presence and seasonal activity of Ixodes ricinus ticks from 10 urban and suburban sites in two different geographical areas of southeastern and northeastern Slovakia during 2008–2010. Our aim was to study the abundance of ticks in correlation with the environmental factors and their infection with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Neoehrlichia mikurensis.
Questing I. ricinus ticks were collected from ten urban and suburban sites in Eastern Slovakia. A total of 670 ticks were further analysed for the presence of B. burgdorferi s.l., A. phagocytophilum and N. mikurensis by molecular methods. Tick site and environmental relations were analysed using General Linear Models (LM). The differences between the number of Lyme borreliosis cases between the Košice and Bardejov regions during a ten-year period were tested by Wilcoxon matched pairs test.
In total, 2921 (1913 nymphs, 1008 adults) I. ricinus ticks were collected from 10 study sites during the main questing season. Tick activity and relative abundance differed between locations and months. Temperature and humidity were the main factors affecting the tick abundance and questing activity. Out of 670 examined ticks, 10.15% were infected with spirochetes from B. burgdorferi s.l. complex (represented by B. afzelii, B. garinii, B.valaisiana and B. burgdorferi s.s.), 2.69% with the A. phagocytophilum and 2.39% with N. mikurensis. The number of Lyme borreliosis cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the Bardejov region was significantly higher than in the Košice region.
Our data indicate that the risk of infection with tick-borne pathogens in Eastern Slovakia is common since 15.2% of ticks were infected at least with one of the tested microorganisms. Even though the abundance of ticks was affected by the microclimatic conditions and the prevalence of pathogens differed between the habitats, the infection risk for humans is also affected by human activities leading to an increased contact with infected ticks.
PMCID: PMC3751762  PMID: 23952975
Ixodes ricinus; Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Neoehrlichia mikurensis; PCR-RFLP; Lyme borreliosis; Anaplasmosis
19.  Prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks in relation to the density of wild cervids 
Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and Anaplasma phagocytophilum have been considered as pathogens in animals and humans. The role of wild cervids in the epidemiology is not clear. We analyzed questing Ixodes ricinus ticks collected in spring for these pathogens from sites with high (Fjelløyvær and Strøm) and low density (Tjore, Hinnebu and Jomfruland) of wild cervids to study the spread of the pathogens in questing ticks.
For detection of Anaplasma phagocytophilum a 77-bp fragment in the msp2 gene was used. Detection of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato was performed using the FL6 and FL7 primers according to sequences of conserved regions of the fla gene. The OspA gene located on the linear 49-kb plasmid was used as target in multiplex PCR for genotyping. Genospecies-specific primers were used in the PCR for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, B. afzelii and B. garinii.
Infection rates with Borrelia spp. were significantly lower at Fjelløyvær and Strøm compared to Tjore and Hinnebu; Fjelløyvær vs. Tjore (χ2 = 20.27, p < 0.0001); Fjelløyvær vs. Hinnebu (χ2 = 24.04, p < 0.0001); Strøm vs. Tjore (χ2 = 11.47, p = 0.0007) and Strøm vs. Hinnebu (χ2 = 16.63, p < 0.0001). The Borrelia genospecies were dominated by. B. afzelii (82%) followed by B. garinii (9.7%) and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (6.9%). B. burgdorferi s.s. was only found on the island of Jomfruland. The infection rate of Anaplasma phagocytophilum showed the following figures; Fjelløyvær vs Hinnebu (χ2 = 16.27, p = 0.0001); Strøm vs. Tjore (χ2 = 13.16, p = 0.0003); Strøm vs. Hinnebu (χ2 = 34.71, p < 0.0001); Fjelløyvær vs. Tjore (χ2 = 3.19, p = 0.0742) and Fjelløyvær vs. Støm (χ2 = 5.06, p = 0.0245). Wild cervids may serve as a reservoir for A. phagocytophilum. Jomfruland, with no wild cervids but high levels of migrating birds and rodents, harboured both B. burgdorferi s.l. and A. phagocytophilum in questing I. ricinus ticks. Birds and rodents may play an important role in maintaining the pathogens on Jomfruland.
The high abundance of roe deer and red deer on the Norwegian islands of Fjelløyvær and Strøm may reduce the infection rate of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in host seeking Ixodes ricinus, in contrast to mainland sites at Hinnebu and Tjore with moderate abundance of wild cervids. The infection rate of Anaplasma phagocytophilum showed the opposite result with a high prevalence in questing ticks in localities with a high density of wild cervids compared to localities with lower density.
PMCID: PMC2788566  PMID: 19943915
20.  Occurrence and identification of risk areas of Ixodes ricinus-borne pathogens: a cost-effectiveness analysis in north-eastern Italy 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:61.
Ixodes ricinus, a competent vector of several pathogens, is the tick species most frequently reported to bite humans in Europe. The majority of human cases of Lyme borreliosis (LB) and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) occur in the north-eastern region of Italy. The aims of this study were to detect the occurrence of endemic and emergent pathogens in north-eastern Italy using adult tick screening, and to identify areas at risk of pathogen transmission. Based on our results, different strategies for tick collection and pathogen screening and their relative costs were evaluated and discussed.
From 2006 to 2008 adult ticks were collected in 31 sites and molecularly screened for the detection of pathogens previously reported in the same area (i.e., LB agents, TBE virus, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Rickettsia spp., Babesia spp., "Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis"). Based on the results of this survey, three sampling strategies were evaluated a-posteriori, and the impact of each strategy on the final results and the overall cost reductions were analyzed. The strategies were as follows: tick collection throughout the year and testing of female ticks only (strategy A); collection from April to June and testing of all adult ticks (strategy B); collection from April to June and testing of female ticks only (strategy C).
Eleven pathogens were detected in 77 out of 193 ticks collected in 14 sites. The most common microorganisms detected were Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (17.6%), Rickettsia helvetica (13.1%), and "Ca. N. mikurensis" (10.5%). Within the B. burgdorferi complex, four genotypes (i.e., B. valaisiana, B. garinii, B. afzelii, and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto) were found. Less prevalent pathogens included R. monacensis (3.7%), TBE virus (2.1%), A. phagocytophilum (1.5%), Bartonella spp. (1%), and Babesia EU1 (0.5%). Co-infections by more than one pathogen were diagnosed in 22% of infected ticks. The prevalences of infection assessed using the three alternative strategies were in accordance with the initial results, with 13, 11, and 10 out of 14 sites showing occurrence of at least one pathogen, respectively. The strategies A, B, and C proposed herein would allow to reduce the original costs of sampling and laboratory analyses by one third, half, and two thirds, respectively. Strategy B was demonstrated to represent the most cost-effective choice, offering a substantial reduction of costs, as well as reliable results.
Monitoring of tick-borne diseases is expensive, particularly in areas where several zoonotic pathogens co-occur. Cost-effectiveness studies can support the choice of the best monitoring strategy, which should take into account the ecology of the area under investigation, as well as the available budget.
PMCID: PMC3337281  PMID: 22452970
Ixodes ricinus; tick-borne diseases; surveillance; economic evaluation; Italy.
21.  Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever Virus Clades V and VI (Europe 1 and 2) in Ticks in Kosovo, 2012 
Despite being a small country, Kosovo represents one of the few foci of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) in Europe. The distribution of Kosovar tick vectors and the evolution of CCHF virus in ticks are both as yet unknown. A better description of the extent and the genetic diversity of CCHFV in ticks from endemic settings is essential, in order to be controlled. We investigated the 2012 distribution of Kosovar ticks alongside the prevalence and the phylogeography of tick-derived CCHFV. Hyalomma marginatum dominated in the endemic municipalities with 90.2% versus 24.3% in the non-endemic regions. Of 1,102 tested ticks, 40 (3.6%) were CCHFV-positive, belonging to H. marginatum (29), Rhipicephalus bursa (10), and Ixodes ricinus (1). The virus strains clustered with clade V and VI related sequences. They fell into two lineages: Kosovo I and II. Kosovo I comprised strains recovered exclusively from R. bursa ticks and was closely related to AP92 prototype strain. Kosovo II clustered into Kosovo IIa, including human-derived strains, and IIb including only strains detected in H. marginatum and I. ricinus. Our phylogeographic reconstruction suggests two temporally distinct CCHFV introductions: the most probable location of the most recent common ancestor of Kosovo I lineage was in Greece (63 years ago) and that of lineages IIa-b in Turkey (35 years ago). After each CCHFV introduction into Kosovo, subsequent lineage expansions suggest periods of in situ evolution. The study provides the first insight into the genetic variability and the origin of CCHFV in ticks from Kosovo. Our findings indicate the spreading of CCHFV to non-endemic areas, which underlines the importance of further studies in order to monitor and predict future CCHF outbreaks in Kosovo. The AP92-like strains appear to be more widespread than previously thought and may provide a promising target for experimental studies due to their assumed low pathogenicity.
Author Summary
Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV) is the most widespread tick-borne virus affecting humans. Its distribution coincides with that of Old World Hyalomma tick vectors. The virus circulates in an enzootic cycle, where hard ticks are both vectors and reservoirs, and mammals the amplifying hosts. Accidentally, humans become infected as dead-end hosts. One of the few CCHF-endemic European countries is Kosovo, where an annual average of ten sporadic cases, with a mean mortality rate of 18%, are reported. In this study, the tick distribution, CCHFV prevalence and the phylogeography of the tick-derived strains from 2012 were investigated. The majority of ticks belonged to Hyalomma marginatum, the main vector of CCHFV. Indeed, of 40 CCHFV-positive ticks, 29 were H. marginatum. The phylogenetic analyses revealed that 30 viral strains formed a distinct lineage within clade V (Europe 1) and were closely related to previously known strains from humans and ticks from the Balkans. However, ten isolates from Rhipicephalus bursa ticks, collected in a non-endemic region, turned out to cluster within a very divergent CCHFV clade (Europe 2), so far only known from Greece and Turkey. Since these strains presumably develop only subclinical or mild infections in humans, they might be suitable for experimental vaccine studies.
PMCID: PMC4177860  PMID: 25255381
22.  Prevalence and Seasonality of Tick-Borne Pathogens in Questing Ixodes ricinus Ticks from Luxembourg ▿  
In Europe, ixodid ticks are important arthropod vectors of human and animal pathogens, but comprehensive studies of the prevalence of all relevant pathogens in Central Europe are scarce. As a result of ecological changes, the incidences of tick-borne infections are expected to increase. In this study, 1,394 nymphal and adult Ixodes ricinus ticks sampled monthly during the active season from 33 ecologically distinct collection sites throughout Luxembourg were screened for all human tick-borne pathogens relevant in Central Europe. Species were identified by sequence analysis of detection PCR amplicons. Mean infection rates of ticks were 11.3% for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, 5.1% for Rickettsia sp., 2.7% for Babesia sp., and 1.9% for Anaplasma phagocytophilum. No tick was found to be infected with Coxiella sp., Francisella tularensis subsp., or Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV). A total of 3.2% of ticks were infected with more than one pathogen species, including mixed Borrelia infections (1.5%). Seasonal variations of tick infection rates were observed for Borrelia, Babesia, and Anaplasma, possibly reflecting a behavioral adaptation strategy of questing ticks. A positive correlation between the grade of urbanization and Borrelia infection rate of ticks was observed, suggesting an established urban zoonotic cycle. We also found Hepatozoon canis (0.1%) and Bartonella henselae (0.3%), which so far have not been found in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks in Central Europe.
PMCID: PMC2863427  PMID: 20228110
23.  Relative Importance of Ixodes ricinus and Ixodes trianguliceps as Vectors for Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Babesia microti in Field Vole (Microtus agrestis) Populations▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(23):7118-7125.
The importance of Ixodes ricinus in the transmission of tick-borne pathogens is well recognized in the United Kingdom and across Europe. However, the role of coexisting Ixodes species, such as the widely distributed species Ixodes trianguliceps, as alternative vectors for these pathogens has received little attention. This study aimed to assess the relative importance of I. ricinus and I. trianguliceps in the transmission of Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Babesia microti among United Kingdom field voles (Microtus agrestis), which serve as reservoir hosts for both pathogens. While all instars of I. trianguliceps feed exclusively on small mammals, I. ricinus adults feed primarily on larger hosts such as deer. The abundance of both tick species and pathogen infection prevalence in field voles were monitored at sites surrounded with fencing that excluded deer and at sites where deer were free to roam. As expected, fencing significantly reduced the larval burden of I. ricinus on field voles and the abundance of questing nymphs, but the larval burden of I. trianguliceps was not significantly affected. The prevalence of A. phagocytophilum and B. microti infections was not significantly affected by the presence of fencing, suggesting that I. trianguliceps is their principal vector. The prevalence of nymphal and adult ticks on field voles was also unaffected, indicating that relatively few non-larval I. ricinus ticks feed upon field voles. This study provides compelling evidence for the importance of I. trianguliceps in maintaining these enzootic tick-borne infections, while highlighting the potential for such infections to escape into alternative hosts via I. ricinus.
PMCID: PMC2592922  PMID: 18820068
24.  Unique strains of Anaplasma phagocytophilum segregate among diverse questing and non-questing Ixodes tick species in the western United States 
Ticks and tick-borne diseases  2013;4(6):10.1016/j.ttbdis.2013.06.003.
The emerging tick-borne pathogen Anaplasma phagocytophilum infects humans, domestic animals, and wildlife throughout the Holarctic. In the western U.S., the ecology of A. phagocytophilum is particularly complex, with multiple pathogen strains, tick vectors, and reservoir hosts. A recent phylogenetic analysis of A. phagocytophilum strains isolated from various small mammal hosts in California documented distinct clustering of woodrat strains separate from sciurid (chipmunk and squirrel) strains. Here, we identified strains of A. phagocytophilum in various Ixodes tick species in California and related these genotypes to those found among reservoir and clinical hosts from the same areas. The sequences from all of the nidicolous (nest-dwelling) Ixodes ticks grouped within a clade that also contained all of the woodrat-origin A. phagocytophilum strains. Two of the I. pacificus sequences were also grouped within this woodrat clade, while the remaining five belonged to a less genetically diverse clade that included several sciurid-origin strains as well as a dog, a horse, and a human strain. By comparing A. phagocytophilum strains from multiple sources concurrently, we were able to gain a clearer picture of how A. phagocytophilum strains in the western U.S. are partitioned, which hosts and vectors are most likely to be infected with a particular strain, and which tick species and reservoir hosts pose the greatest health risk to humans and domestic animals.
PMCID: PMC3833925  PMID: 23994335
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Ixodes spp.; Nidicolous ticks; Ixodes pacificus; ank gene; Phylogeny
25.  Prevalence of Rickettsiales in ticks removed from the skin of outdoor workers in North Carolina 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7(1):607.
Tick-transmitted rickettsial diseases, such as ehrlichiosis and spotted fever rickettsiosis, are significant sources of morbidity and mortality in the southern United States. Because of their exposure in tick-infested woodlands, outdoor workers experience an increased risk of infection with tick-borne pathogens. As part of a double blind randomized-controlled field trial of the effectiveness of permethrin-treated clothing in preventing tick bites, we identified tick species removed from the skin of outdoor workers in North Carolina and tested the ticks for Rickettsiales pathogens.
Ticks submitted by study participants from April-September 2011 and 2012 were identified to species and life stage, and preliminarily screened for the genus Rickettsia by nested PCR targeting the 17-kDa protein gene. Rickettsia were further identified to species by PCR amplification of 23S-5S intergenic spacer (IGS) fragments combined with reverse line blot hybridization with species-specific probes and through cloning and nucleotide sequence analysis of 23S-5S amplicons. Ticks were examined for Ehrlichia and Anaplasma by nested PCR directed at the gltA, antigen-expressing gene containing a variable number of tandem repeats, 16S rRNA, and groESL genes.
The lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) accounted for 95.0 and 92.9% of ticks submitted in 2011 (n = 423) and 2012 (n = 451), respectively. Specimens of American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), Gulf Coast tick (Amblyomma maculatum) and black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) were also identified. In both years of our study, 60.9% of ticks tested positive for 17-kDa. “Candidatus Rickettsia amblyommii”, identified in all four tick species, accounted for 90.2% (416/461) of the 23S-5S-positive samples and 52.9% (416/787) of all samples tested. Nucleotide sequence analysis of Rickettsia-specific 23S-5S IGS, ompA and gltA gene fragments indicated that ticks, principally A. americanum, contained novel species of Rickettsia. Other Rickettsiales, including Ehrlichia ewingii, E. chaffeensis, Ehrlichia sp. (Panola Mountain), and Anaplasma phagocytophilum, were infrequently identified, principally in A. americanum.
We conclude that in North Carolina, the most common rickettsial exposure is to R. amblyommii carried by A. americanum. Other Rickettsiales bacteria, including novel species of Rickettsia, were less frequently detected in A. americanum but are relevant to public health nevertheless.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13071-014-0607-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4301950  PMID: 25533148
Ticks; Rickettsiales pathogens; Rickettsia; Ehrlichia; Reverse line blot hybridization

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