Candidatus Neoehrlichia came under the focus of recent research in terms of human and pet relevance. Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis seems to be relatively abundant in animals and humans from Central European countries, whereas Candidatus Neoehrlichia lotoris was found solely in raccoons from the USA.
Spleen samples from a total of 164 red foxes, originating from two western provinces in Austria (Tyrol and Vorarlberg), were collected and examined for the presence of tick-borne bacteria of the family Anaplasmataceae by PCR and sequencing. In a fox sample originating from Vorarlberg Candidatus Neoehrlichia sp. was found, which is genetically (16S rRNA, groEL) closely related to Candidatus Neoehrlichia lotoris but clearly distinct from Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis.
The present study revealed, for the first time, the occurrence of Candidatus Neoehrlichia sp. in a red fox worldwide. A continuing screening of wild carnivores, especially foxes, and ticks for this potential pathogen is required to evaluate the actual occurrence and distribution of these bacteria. Further research is needed to elucidate the relationships of Neoehrlichia, as well as their reservoir and impact on wildlife, pets and humans.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia sp; 16S rRNA; GroEL; Red fox; Austria; Phylogenetic analysis
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.
Vector-borne disease; Emerging zoonoses; Candidatus N. mikurensis; I. ricinus; Anaplasma phagocytophylum
Neoehrlichiosis caused by “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” is an emerging zoonotic disease. In total, six patients have been described in Europe, with the first case detected in 2007. In addition, seven patients from China were described in a report published in October 2012. In 2009, we diagnosed the first human case of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” infection in the Zurich area (Switzerland). Here, we report two additional human cases from the same region, which were identified by broad-range 16S rRNA gene PCR. Both patients were immunocompromised and presented with similar clinical syndromes, including fever, malaise, and weight loss. A diagnostic multiplex real-time PCR was developed for specific detection of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” infections. The assay is based on the signature sequence of a 280-bp fragment of the “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” 16S rRNA gene and incorporates a “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” species, a “Ca. Neoehrlichia” genus, and an Anaplasmataceae family probe for simultaneous screening. The analytical sensitivity was determined to be below five copies of the “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” 16S rRNA gene. Our results show that the assay is suitable for the direct detection of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” DNA in clinical samples from, for example, blood and bone marrow. In addition, it allows for monitoring treatment response during antibiotic therapy. Using the same assay, DNA extracts from 1,916 ticks collected in four forests in close proximity to the patients' residences (<3 km) were screened. At all sampling sites, the minimal prevalence of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” was between 3.5 to 8% in pools of either nymphs, males, or females, showing a strong geographic association between the three patients and the assumed vector.
“Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” is the tick-borne agent of neoehrlichiosis, an infectious disease that primarily affects immunocompromised patients. So far, the genetic variability of “Ca. Neoehrlichia” has been studied only by comparing 16S rRNA genes and groEL operon sequences. We describe the development and use of a multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA) protocol to characterize the genetic diversity of clinical “Ca. Neoehrlichia” strains in Europe and their relatedness to other species within the Anaplasmataceae family. Six genes were selected: ftsZ, clpB, gatB, lipA, groEL, and 16S rRNA. Each MLSA locus was amplified by real-time PCR, and the PCR products were sequenced. Phylogenetic trees of MLSA locus relatedness were constructed from aligned sequences. Blood samples from 12 patients with confirmed “Ca. Neoehrlichia” infection from Sweden (n = 9), the Czech Republic (n = 2), and Germany (n = 1) were analyzed with the MLSA protocol. Three of the Swedish strains exhibited identical lipA sequences, while the lipA sequences of the strains from the other nine patients were identical to each other. One of the Czech strains had one differing nucleotide in the clpB sequence from the sequences of the other 11 strains. All 12 strains had identical sequences for the genes 16S rRNA, ftsZ, gatB, and groEL. According to the MLSA, among the Anaplasmataceae, “Ca. Neoehrlichia” is most closely related to Ehrlichia ruminantium, less so to Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and least to Wolbachia endosymbionts. To conclude, three sequence types of infectious “Ca. Neoehrlichia” were identified: one in the west of Sweden, one in the Czech Republic, and one spread throughout Europe.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (CNM; family Anaplasmataceae) was recently recognized as a potential tick-borne human pathogen. The presence of CNM in mammals, in host-seeking Ixodes ticks and in ticks attached to mammals and birds has been reported recently. We investigated the presence of CNM in ornithophagous ticks from migrating birds. A total of 1,150 ticks (582 nymphs, 548 larvae, 18 undetermined ticks and two adult females) collected from 5,365 birds captured in south-eastern Sweden was screened for CNM by molecular methods. The birds represented 65 different species, of which 35 species were infested with one or more ticks. Based on a combination of morphological and molecular species identification, the majority of the ticks were identified as Ixodes ricinus. Samples were initially screened by real-time PCR targeting the CNM 16S rRNA gene, and confirmed by a second real-time PCR targeting the groEL gene. For positive samples, a 1260 base pair fragment of the 16S rRNA gene was sequenced. Based upon bacterial gene sequence identification, 2.1% (24/1150) of the analysed samples were CNM-positive. Twenty-two out of 24 CNM-positive ticks were molecularly identified as I. ricinus nymphs, and the remaining two were identified as I. ricinus based on morphology. The overall CNM prevalence in I. ricinus nymphs was 4.2%. None of the 548 tested larvae was positive. CNM-positive ticks were collected from 10 different bird species. The highest CNM-prevalences were recorded in nymphs collected from common redpoll (Carduelis flammea, 3/7), thrush nightingale (Luscinia luscinia, 2/29) and dunnock (Prunella modularis, 1/17). The 16S rRNA sequences obtained in this study were all identical to each other and to three previously reported European strains, two of which were obtained from humans. It is concluded that ornithophagous ticks may be infected with CNM and that birds most likely can disperse CNM-infected ticks over large geographical areas.
Recently, a novel ehrlichial organism was isolated from a raccoon (Procyon lotor) and the isolate (RAC413) was infectious to two naïve raccoons but not laboratory mice, rats or rabbits. In this study, amplification and sequencing of four gene targets (16S rRNA gene, groESL, gltA and rpoB) confirmed that the novel ehrlichial organism was a member of the family Anaplasmataceae and was most closely related to, but distinct from, ‘Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis’ TK4456R and IS58. RAC413 shared the highest sequence similarity with members of the genus Ehrlichia (94.2–95.1, 80.9–83.1, 67.9–71.9 and 39.9–40.7 % similarity for the 16S rRNA gene, groESL, gltA and rpoB, respectively). No sequence variation in three sequences (16S rRNA gene, groESL and gltA) was observed between the RAC413 isolate and five additional sequences amplified from blood of naturally infected raccoons from several geographically isolated populations in the south-eastern USA. Serum samples from four experimentally infected raccoons did not react to Ehrlichia canis, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Anaplasma marginale or Anaplasma phagocytophilum antigens in an immunofluorescence assay or an Ehrlichia ewingii peptide in an ELISA format. On the basis of the distinctive molecular and serological characteristics and apparent host specificity of this ehrlichial organism, it is proposed that this organism be designated ‘Candidatus Neoehrlichia lotoris’ (reference strain RAC413R).
Tick-borne diseases are the most prevalent vector-borne diseases in Europe. Knowledge on the incidence and clinical presentation of other tick-borne diseases than Lyme borreliosis and tick-borne encephalitis is minimal, despite the high human exposure to these pathogens through tick bites. Using molecular detection techniques, the frequency of tick-borne infections after exposure through tick bites was estimated.
Ticks, blood samples and questionnaires on health status were collected from patients that visited their general practitioner with a tick bite or erythema migrans in 2007 and 2008. The presence of several tick-borne pathogens in 314 ticks and 626 blood samples of this cohort were analyzed using PCR-based methods. Using multivariate logistic regression, associations were explored between pathogens detected in blood and self-reported symptoms at enrolment and during a three-month follow-up period.
Half of the ticks removed from humans tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis, Rickettsia helvetica, Rickettsia monacensis, Borrelia miyamotoi and several Babesia species. Among 92 Borrelia burgdorferi s. l. positive ticks, 33% carried another pathogen from a different genus. In blood of sixteen out of 626 persons with tick bites or erythema migrans, DNA was detected from Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (n = 7), Anaplasma phagocytophilum (n = 5), Babesia divergens (n = 3), Borrelia miyamotoi (n = 1) and Borrelia burgdorferi s. l. (n = 1). None of these sixteen individuals reported any overt symptoms that would indicate a corresponding illness during the three-month follow-up period. No associations were found between the presence of pathogen DNA in blood and; self-reported symptoms, with pathogen DNA in the corresponding ticks (n = 8), reported tick attachment duration, tick engorgement, or antibiotic treatment at enrolment.
Based on molecular detection techniques, the probability of infection with a tick-borne pathogen other than Lyme spirochetes after a tick bite is roughly 2.4%, in the Netherlands. Similarly, among patients with erythema migrans, the probability of a co-infection with another tick-borne pathogen is approximately 2.7%. How often these infections cause disease symptoms or to what extend co-infections affect the course of Lyme borreliosis needs further investigations.
Two most common tick-borne diseases in Europe are Lyme borreliosis and tick-borne encephalitis. Ticks transmit many more pathogens, causing neglected diseases such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis, rickettsiosis and neoehrlichiosis. These diseases are seldom diagnosed, due to their mild and non-characteristic symptoms, but also due to lack of awareness and availability of diagnostic tests. Using molecular detection techniques (polymerase chain reaction or PCR), we estimated the frequency of tick-borne infections in humans after a tick bite and in patients with the first symptoms of Lyme borreliosis, an erythema migrans. About half of the ticks that fed on humans carried one or more tick-borne pathogens, and approximately 2.5% of people that were bitten by ticks were infected with a tick-borne pathogen other than Lyme borreliosis or tick-borne encephalitis. Co-infections of a tick-borne pathogen in patients with an erythema migrans was also approximately 2.5%. Based on these findings, we estimated the incidence of tick-borne infections other than Lyme borreliosis in the Netherlands. How often these infections cause disease or to what extend co-infections affect the course of Lyme borreliosis needs further investigations.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (CNM) is an emerging tick-borne pathogen causing severe disease in immunocompromised patients. In Europe, Ixodes ricinus is the primary vector and rodents act as reservoir hosts. New data on the prevalence of CNM in ticks and rodents contribute to the knowledge on the distribution of endemic areas and circulation of the bacterium in natural foci.
Questing ticks were collected and rodents were trapped in urban/suburban and natural habitats in South-Western Slovakia from 2011 to 2014. DNA from questing and rodent-attached ticks and rodent tissues were screened for CNM by real-time PCR. Rodent spleen samples positive for CNM were characterised at the groEL gene locus. Spatial and temporal differences in CNM prevalence in ticks and rodents and co-infections of ticks with CNM and Anaplasma phagocytophilum were analysed.
The presence of CNM was confirmed in questing and rodent-attached I. ricinus ticks and in rodents. Total prevalence in both ticks and rodents was significantly higher in the natural habitat (2.3 % and 10.1 %, respectively) than in the urban/suburban habitat (1.0 % and 3.3 %, respectively). No seasonal pattern in CNM prevalence in ticks was observed, but prevalence in rodents was higher in autumn than in spring. CNM was detected in Apodemus flavicollis, Myodes glareolus, Microtus arvalis and Micromys minutus, with the highest prevalence in M. arvalis (30 %). By screening CNM dissemination in rodent tissues, infection was detected in lungs of all specimens with positive spleens and in blood, kidney, liver and skin of part of those individuals. Infection with CNM was detected in 1.3 % of rodent attached I. ricinus ticks. Sequences of a fragment of the groEL gene from CNM-positive rodents showed a high degree of identity with sequences of the gene amplified from ticks and infected human blood from Europe. Only 0.1 % of CNM-positive questing ticks carried A. phagocytophilum. Ticks infected with CNM prevailed in the natural habitat (67.2 %), whereas ticks infected with A. phagocytophilum prevailed in the urban/suburban habitat (75.0 %).
The study confirmed the circulation of CNM between I. ricinus ticks and rodents in South-Western Slovakia, and indicates a potential risk of contracting human infections.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Ixodes ricinus; Rodents; Tick-borne Pathogen
Only limited information is currently available on the prevalence of vector borne and zoonotic pathogens in dogs and ticks in Nigeria. The aim of this study was to use molecular techniques to detect and characterize vector borne pathogens in dogs and ticks from Nigeria.
Blood samples and ticks (Rhipicephalus sanguineus, Rhipicephalus turanicus and Heamaphysalis leachi) collected from 181 dogs from Nigeria were molecularly screened for human and animal vector-borne pathogens by PCR and sequencing. DNA of Hepatozoon canis (41.4%), Ehrlichia canis (12.7%), Rickettsia spp. (8.8%), Babesia rossi (6.6%), Anaplasma platys (6.6%), Babesia vogeli (0.6%) and Theileria sp. (0.6%) was detected in the blood samples. DNA of E. canis (23.7%), H. canis (21.1%), Rickettsia spp. (10.5%), Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (5.3%) and A. platys (1.9%) was detected in 258 ticks collected from 42 of the 181 dogs. Co- infections with two pathogens were present in 37% of the dogs examined and one dog was co-infected with 3 pathogens. DNA of Rickettsia conorii israelensis was detected in one dog and Rhipicephalus sanguineus tick. DNA of another human pathogen, Candidatus N. mikurensis was detected in Rhipicephalus sanguineus and Heamaphysalis leachi ticks, and is the first description of Candidatus N. mikurensis in Africa. The Theileria sp. DNA detected in a local dog in this study had 98% sequence identity to Theileria ovis from sheep.
The results of this study indicate that human and animal pathogens are abundant in dogs and their ticks in Nigeria and portray the potential high risk of human exposure to infection with these agents.
In Nigeria, dogs are not only kept as pets, but are also used for hunting as well as a source of animal protein among some ethnic groups. Ticks are known to infest dogs and serve as vectors for some pathogens of zoonotic and veterinary importance. There is limited information on the prevalence and distribution of vector borne pathogens in dogs and ticks in Nigeria. The aim of the study was to detect and characterize vector borne pathogens in dogs and ticks from Nigeria using molecular methods. The results of this study showed a high estimate of vector borne pathogens in Nigerian dogs (77.3%) and ticks (63.3%). DNA of Candidatus N. mikurensis, an emerging pathogen of humans was detected in Rhipicephalus sanguineus and Heamaphysalis leachi ticks. Another human pathogen, Rickettsia conorii israelensis the causative agent of Mediterranean spotted fever was detected in Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks. This is the first description of Candidatus N. mikurensis in Africa and Rickettsia conorii israelensis in Nigeria. These results indicate that the use of molecular techniques for the diagnosis of emerging infections in developing countries is of utmost importance in assisting physicians and veterinarians in making accurate diagnoses and providing the appropriate treatment for their patients.
To estimate the likelihood of people coming into contact with the recently described tick-borne agent “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis,” we compared its prevalence to those of Lyme disease spirochetes and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in questing adult Ixodes ricinus ticks collected in various Central European sites and examined ticks, which had been removed from people, for the presence of these pathogens. Whereas spirochetes infected questing adult ticks most frequently (22.3%), fewer than a third as many ticks were infected by “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” (6.2%), and about a sixth harbored A. phagocytophilum (3.9%). On average, every twelfth encounter of a person with an I. ricinus tick (8.1%) may bear the risk of acquiring “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis.” Although a fifth of the people (20%) had removed at least one tick infected by “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis,” none displayed symptoms described for this pathogen, suggesting that its transmission may not be immediate and/or that immunocompetent individuals may not be affected. Because immunosuppressed patients may be at a particular risk of developing symptoms, it should be considered that “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” appears to be the second most common pathogen in I. ricinus ticks. In our survey, only Borrelia afzelii appears to infect Central European vector ticks more frequently.
‘Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis’ is a tick-borne bacteria implicated in human health. To date, ‘Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis’ has been described in different countries from Africa, Asia and Europe, but never in Spain. However, according to the epidemiological features of the main vector in Europe, Ixodes ricinus, its circulation in our country was suspected.
A total of 200 I. ricinus ticks collected in the North of Spain were analyzed. DNAs were extracted and used as templates for PCRs targeting fragment genes for Anaplasma/Ehrlichia detection. The amplified products were sequenced and analyzed.
‘Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis’ was amplified in two specimens. Furthermore, Anaplasma phagocytophilum was detected in 61 samples analyzed.
The detection of ‘Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis’ in I. ricinus ticks from Spain indicates its circulation and the potential risk of contracting a human infection in this country.
‘Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis’; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Ixodes ricinus; Spain
In Australia, a conclusive aetiology of Lyme disease-like illness in human patients remains elusive, despite growing numbers of people presenting with symptoms attributed to tick bites. In the present study, we surveyed the microbial communities harboured by human-biting ticks from across Australia to identify bacteria that may contribute to this syndrome. Universal PCR primers were used to amplify the V1-2 hyper-variable region of bacterial 16S rRNA genes in DNA samples from individual Ixodes holocyclus (n = 279), Amblyomma triguttatum (n = 167), Haemaphysalis bancrofti (n = 7), and H. longicornis (n = 7) ticks. The 16S amplicons were sequenced on the Illumina MiSeq platform and analysed in USEARCH, QIIME, and BLAST to assign genus and species-level taxonomies. Nested PCR and Sanger sequencing were used to confirm the NGS data and further analyse novel findings. All 460 ticks were negative for Borrelia spp. by both NGS and nested PCR analysis. Two novel “Candidatus Neoehrlichia” spp. were identified in 12.9% of I. holocyclus ticks. A novel Anaplasma sp. was identified in 1.8% of A. triguttatum ticks, and a novel Ehrlichia sp. was identified in both A. triguttatum (1.2%) ticks and a single I. holocyclus (0.6%) tick. Further phylogenetic analysis of novel “Ca. Neoehrlichia”, Anaplasma and Ehrlichia based on 1,265 bp 16S rRNA gene sequences suggests that these are new species. Determining whether these newly discovered organisms cause disease in humans and animals, like closely related bacteria do abroad, is of public health importance and requires further investigation.
“Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” (Anaplasmataceae) is an emerging pathogen transmitted by Ixodes ticks. Conventional PCR and the newly developed high-resolution melt PCR were used to detect and discriminate “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” and Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Both bacterial species were frequently found in Ixodes ricinus and Ixodes hexagonus but virtually absent from Dermacentor reticulatus. In rodents, “Candidatus N. mikurensis” was significantly more prevalent than A. phagocytophilum, whereas in cats, only A. phagocytophilum was found.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis is a newly emerging tick-borne bacterium from the family Anaplasmataceae. Its presence in Ixodes ricinus ticks was reported from various European countries, however, it’s ecology and co-circulation with another member of the same family, Anaplasma phagocytophilum has not been rigorously studied yet.
Candidatus N. mikurensis was detected in all sampling sites. In total, 4.5% of ticks were positive including larvae. The highest positivity was detected in Austria with a prevalence of 23.5%. The probability of Candidatus N. mikurensis occurrence increased with the proportion of ticks infected with Anaplasma phagocytophilum.
A positive association between the occurrences of Candidatus N. mikurensis and A. phagocytophilum indicates that both bacteria share similar ecology for their natural foci in Central Europe.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Ixodes ricinus; Human granulocytic anaplasmosis; Neoehrlichiosis
Wild boars (Sus scrofa) have been suggested to be involved in the enzootic cycle of the tick-borne pathogen Anaplasma phagocytophilum. This observation raises the question whether they serve as reservoir hosts for A. phagocytophilum and potentially for other tick-borne pathogens of public health relevance. The aim of this study was to investigate wild boars and their ticks from a forest site in southern Germany for the presence of A. phagocytophilum, Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis, Rickettsia spp., Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.), Borrelia spp. of the relapsing fever group, and Babesia spp. Therefore, 24 wild boars collected from October, 2010, to February, 2013, were investigated by molecular methods. DNA of A. phagocytophilum was detected in three out of 24 (12.5%) wild boars and in four out of 16 (25%) ticks. DNA of none of the other pathogens was found in any wild boar, but Rickettsia spp., B. burgdorferi s.l., and Cand. N. mikurensis were found in one of the investigated ticks each. Sequences of the partial 16S rRNA gene of A. phagocytophilum from one spleen and two ticks showed 100% similarity to GenBank entries from human anaplasmosis cases (accession nos. U02521 and AY886761). The sequence from the third tick was 100% similar to sequences obtained from Ixodes ricinus and roe deer from the same study area previously. Detecting a potentially human pathogenic A. phagocytophilum variant in wild boar confirms previous findings and is of public health interest. To our knowledge, this is the first report of A. phagocytophilum in wild boars in Germany. Whether wild boars support the enzootic cycle of A. phagocytophilum variants involved in human disease requires further attention in future systematic studies.
Sus scrofa; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Ixodes ricinus; Rickettsia spp.; Borrelia spp.; Babesia spp.; Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Germany
An immunocompromised patient presented with febrile episodes, an erysipelas-like rash, and thromboembolic complications. Amplification of 16S rRNA gene sequences from blood and sequence analysis revealed “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis.” We report the first case of human disease caused by “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis.”
Small mammals are crucial for the life history of ixodid ticks, but their role and importance in the transmission cycle of tick-borne pathogens is mostly unknown. Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (CNM) and Anaplasma phagocytophilum are both tick-borne pathogens, and rodents are discussed to serve as main reservoir hosts for CNM but not for the latter especially in Germany. Analysing the prevalence of both pathogens in small mammals and their ticks in endemic regions may help to elucidate possible transmission paths in small mammal populations and between small mammals and ticks.
In 2012 and 2013, small mammals were trapped at three different sites in Germany. DNA was extracted from different small mammal tissues, from rodent neonates, foetuses and from questing and attached ticks. DNA samples were tested for CNM and A. phagocytophilum by real-time PCR. Samples positive for A. phagocytophilum were further characterized at the 16S rRNA gene locus.
CNM was detected in 28.6% of small mammals and in 2.2% of questing and 3.8% of attached ticks. Altogether 33 positive ticks were attached to 17 different hosts, while positive ticks per host ranged between one and seven. The prevalences for this pathogen differed significantly within small mammal populations comparing sites (χ2: 13.3987; p: 0.0004) and between sexes. Male rodents had an approximately two times higher chance of infection than females (OR: 1.9652; 95% CI: 1.32-2.92). The prevalence for CNM was 31.8% (95% CI: 22-44) in rodent foetuses and neonates (23 of 67) from positive dams, and 60% (95% CI: 35.7-80.25) of positive gravid or recently parturient rodents (9 out of 15) had at least one positive foetus or neonate. Anaplasma phagocytophilum was detected at a low percentage in rodents (0-5.6%) and host-attached ticks (0.5-2.9%) with no significant differences between rodent species. However, attached nymphs were significantly more often infected than attached larvae (χ2: 25.091; p: <0.0001).
This study suggests that CNM is mainly a rodent-associated pathogen and provides evidence for a potential transplacental transmission in rodents. In contrast, most of the rodent species captured likely represent only accidental hosts for A. phagocytophilum at the investigated sites.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Ixodes ricinus; Emerging pathogen; Small mammals; Tick-borne Pathogen
We have repeatedly detected Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis, a bacterium first described in Rattus norvegicus rats and Ixodes ovatus ticks in Japan in 2004 in the blood of a 61-year-old man with signs of septicemia by 16S rRNA and groEL gene PCR. After 6 weeks of therapy with doxycycline and rifampin, the patient recovered.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; septicemia; human infection; 16S rRNA gene PCR; therapy; tick-borne pathogen; bacteria; dispatch
“Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” was detected by PCR in 4.0% (34/841) of the rodents tested in this study. The 34 rodents represented nine species from seven regions of China. Phylogenetic analyses based on the partial groEL and nearly entire 16S rRNA gene sequences of the agent revealed genetic diversity, which was correlated with its geographic origins.
Ixodes persulcatus, Ixodes pavlovskyi, and Dermacentor reticulatus ticks inhabiting Western Siberia are responsible for the transmission of a number of etiological agents that cause human and animal tick-borne diseases. Because these ticks are abundant in the suburbs of large cities, agricultural areas, and popular tourist sites and frequently attack people and livestock, data regarding the microbiomes of these organisms are required. Using metagenomic 16S profiling, we evaluate bacterial communities associated with I. persulcatus, I. pavlovskyi, and D. reticulatus ticks collected from the Novosibirsk region of Russia. A total of 1214 ticks were used for this study. DNA extracted from the ticks was pooled according to tick species and sex. Sequencing of the V3-V5 domains of 16S rRNA genes was performed using the Illumina Miseq platform. The following bacterial genera were prevalent in the examined communities: Acinetobacter (all three tick species), Rickettsia (I. persulcatus and D. reticulatus) and Francisella (D. reticulatus). B. burgdorferi sensu lato and B. miyamotoi sequences were detected in I. persulcatus and I. pavlovskyi but not in D. reticulatus ticks. The pooled samples of all tick species studied contained bacteria from the Anaplasmataceae family, although their occurrence was low. DNA from A. phagocytophilum and Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis was first observed in I. pavlovskyi ticks. Significant inter-species differences in the number of bacterial taxa as well as intra-species diversity related to tick sex were observed. The bacterial communities associated with the I. pavlovskyi ticks displayed a higher biodiversity compared with those of the I. persulcatus and D. reticulatus ticks. Bacterial community structure was also diverse across the studied tick species, as shown by permutational analysis of variance using the Bray-Curtis dissimilarity metric (p = 0.002). Between-sex variation was confirmed by PERMANOVA testing in I. persulcatus (p = 0.042) and I. pavlovskyi (p = 0.042) ticks. Our study indicated that 16S metagenomic profiling could be used for rapid assessment of the occurrence of medically important bacteria in tick populations inhabiting different natural biotopes and therefore the epidemic danger of studied foci.
Altogether 2004 Ixodes ricinus ticks, from 37 places in Hungary, were analysed in pools with a recently developed multiplex real-time PCR for the presence of Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis and for other representatives of the genus. Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis was identified in nine sampling sites, indicating three separated endemic regions along the borders of Hungary. In addition, results of samples from seven places (except for the western part of the country) were positive in the genus-specific (Ca. Neoehrlichia sp.) PCR, but were negative for Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis.
Tick-borne diseases; Zoonosis; Epidemiology
“Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” is a new intracellular pathogen associated with human infection and death. “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” infection in a chronically neutropenic dog from Germany was confirmed by DNA sequencing. The same organism was previously described from ticks and two sick human beings from Germany.
The tick-borne bacterium “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” has recently been recognized as a human pathogen. Together with Borrelia afzelii, it is one of the most common pathogens found in the tick Ixodes ricinus. Here, we compared the epidemiologies of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” and B. afzelii by longitudinal sampling from May to September in one of their most abundant vertebrate hosts, the bank vole (Myodes glareolus), using real-time PCR for detection and quantification. The prevalences of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” and B. afzelii were determined to be 19% (50/261) and 22% (56/261), respectively. The prevalence of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” increased significantly during the sampling season. The clearance rate of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” was significantly higher than that of B. afzelii. We found a high frequency of double infections; 46% of all samples infected with “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” also had a coinfection with B. afzelii. The frequency of coinfections was significantly higher than expected from the prevalence of each pathogen. The high level of coinfections can be caused by interactions between the pathogens or might reflect variation in general susceptibility among voles.
We examined small mammals as hosts for Anaplasmataceae in southern Sweden. Of 771 rodents, 68 (8.8%) were infected by Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis, but no other Anaplasmataceae were found. Candidatus N. mikurensis has recently been found in human patients in Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden, which suggests that this could be an emerging pathogen in Europe.
Anaplasmataceae; Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Bartonella; bacteria; tick-borne disease; zoonotic disease; wild rodents; Rickettsia; Sweden; dispatch
The Australian paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) is of significant medical and veterinary importance as a cause of dermatological and neurological disease, yet there is currently limited information about the bacterial communities harboured by these ticks and the risk of infectious disease transmission to humans and domestic animals. Ongoing controversy about the presence of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (the aetiological agent of Lyme disease) in Australia increases the need to accurately identify and characterise bacteria harboured by I. holocyclus ticks.
Universal PCR primers were used to amplify the V1-2 hyper-variable region of bacterial 16S rRNA genes present in DNA samples from I. holocyclus and I. ricinus ticks, collected in Australia and Germany respectively. The 16S amplicons were purified, sequenced on the Ion Torrent platform, and analysed in USEARCH, QIIME, and BLAST to assign genus and species-level taxonomy. Initial analysis of I. holocyclus and I. ricinus identified that > 95 % of the 16S sequences recovered belonged to the tick intracellular endosymbiont “Candidatus Midichloria mitochondrii” (CMM). A CMM-specific blocking primer was designed that decreased CMM sequences by approximately 96 % in both tick species and significantly increased the total detectable bacterial diversity, allowing identification of medically important bacterial pathogens that were previously masked by CMM.
Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato was identified in German I. ricinus, but not in Australian I. holocyclus ticks. However, bacteria of medical significance were detected in I. holocyclus ticks, including a Borrelia relapsing fever group sp., Bartonella henselae, novel “Candidatus Neoehrlichia” spp., Clostridium histolyticum, Rickettsia spp., and Leptospira inadai.
Abundant bacterial endosymbionts, such as CMM, limit the effectiveness of next-generation 16S bacterial community profiling in arthropods by masking less abundant bacteria, including pathogens. Specific blocking primers that inhibit endosymbiont 16S amplification during PCR are an effective way of reducing this limitation. Here, this strategy provided the first evidence of a relapsing fever Borrelia sp. and of novel “Candidatus Neoehrlichia” spp. in Australia. Our results raise new questions about tick-borne pathogens in I. holocyclus ticks.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13071-015-0958-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Tick; Vector-borne disease; Zoonoses; Metagenomics; 16S community profiling; Ixodes holocyclus; Ixodes ricinus; Candidatus Midichloria; Borrelia; Candidatus Neoehrlichia