Doxycycline is the treatment of choice for canine monocytic ehrlichiosis (CME), a well-characterized disease and valuable model for tick-borne zoonoses. Conflicting reports of clearance of Ehrlichia canis after treatment with doxycycline suggested that the disease phase during which treatment is initiated influences outcomes of these treatments. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of a 28-day doxycycline regimen for clearance of experimental E. canis infections from dogs treated during three phases of the disease. Ten dogs were inoculated with blood from E. canis carriers and treated with doxycycline during acute, subclinical, or chronic phases of CME. Daily rectal temperatures and semiweekly blood samples were monitored from each dog, and Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks were acquisition fed on each dog for xenodiagnosis. Blood collected from dogs treated during acute or subclinical CME became PCR negative for E. canis as clinical parameters improved, but blood samples collected from dogs treated during chronic CME remained intermittently PCR positive. R. sanguineus ticks fed on dogs after doxycycline treatments became PCR positive for E. canis, regardless of when treatment was initiated. However, fewer ticks became PCR positive after feeding on two persistently infected dogs treated with doxycycline followed by rifampin, suggesting that antibiotic therapy can reduce tick acquisition of E. canis.
We present evidence that supports the carrier status of dogs experimentally infected with Ehrlichia canis after treatment with doxycycline. Canine ehrlichiosis was induced in five dogs by intravenous inoculation with E. canis-infected DH82 cells. All animals developed mild clinical signs of transient fever, body weight loss, thrombocytopenia, and increased gamma globulin levels in plasma. An indirect fluorescent-antibody test (IFA) revealed that all dogs had seroconverted (titer, 5,120) by day 10 postinoculation (p.i.). E. canis was reisolated from blood samples collected at intervals throughout the 2-month period p.i. Doxycycline was administered orally once daily at 10 mg/kg of body weight per day for 1 week starting at 2 months p.i. Following treatment, gamma globulin levels in plasma were decreased. At necropsy on days 54 to 59 after the start of treatment, spleen, liver, kidney, and lymph nodes were collected for E. canis culture and histopathologic examination. Although the dogs did not show significant clinical signs during or after treatment with the antibiotic, E. canis was reisolated from the blood and tissue samples of three of five dogs. A 16-fold reduction in IFA titer was noted in two dogs which were negative for E. canis reisolation at day 49 after the start of treatment, whereas a zero- to fourfold reduction in IFA titer was seen in the remaining three dogs. Western immunoblot reactions to higher-molecular-size E. canis antigens in the sera of two dogs which were negative for E. canis on blood culture decreased, whereas they remained continuously high or only transiently decreased for the duration of the study for antigens in the sera of three dogs from which E. canis was reisolated. Histopathologically, prominent plasmacytosis in the kidney cortex was present in three dogs from which E. canis was reisolated, whereas the kidney cortices of two dogs had moderate to minor plasmacytosis. These findings pose questions regarding the efficacy, dosage and duration of doxycycline treatment in dogs with E. canis infection. In addition, it was shown that IFA and Western immunoblotting may aid in assessing the efficacy of antibiotic therapy when definitive reisolation procedures are not readily available.
In order to determine whether dogs in the subclinical phase of canine monocytic ehrlichiosis (CME) are carriers of Ehrlichia canis and to determine the significance of persistent indirect immunofluorescent anti-E. canis antibody titers during this phase, PCR was performed with blood, bone marrow, and splenic aspirates collected 34 months postinoculation from six clinically healthy beagle dogs experimentally infected with E. canis. At least one of the three samples (spleen, bone marrow, and blood) from four of the six dogs was PCR positive. The spleens of all four of these dogs were PCR positive, and the bone marrow and blood of two of the four dogs were PCR positive. Indirect immunofluorescent-antibody titers increased progressively during the first 5 months postinfection, remained high for an additional period of more than 11 months, and declined thereafter, suggesting that the dogs were recovering from the disease. Five of the dogs remained seropositive 34 months postinfection. The data obtained in this study demonstrate for the first time that clinically healthy dogs in the subclinical phase of CME are carriers of the rickettsia. It was shown that dogs can harbor E. canis for years without developing the chronic clinical disease and that dogs can eliminate the parasite and recover from CME without medical treatment. Our findings suggest that the spleen is the organ most likely to harbor E. canis parasites during the subclinical phase and the last organ to accommodate the parasite before elimination. It was concluded that PCR of DNA extracted from splenic aspirates is a reliable method for determining the carrier state of CME.
Canine monocytic ehrlichiosis (CME) is a tick-borne disease with a global distribution, caused by Ehrlichia canis. The inflammatory response to E. canis infection includes changes in certain acute phase proteins (APP) and in biomarkers of the oxidative status. APP responses are considered part of the innate immune response to CME. The aim of this study was to evaluate the APP and oxidative marker responses in dogs vaccinated against CME with an attenuated vaccine and subsequently challenged with a wild E. canis strain.
The study included 3 groups of 4 beagle dogs. Group 1 dogs were inoculated subcutaneously with an attenuated E. canis vaccine on day 0, and again on day 213. Group 2 initially served as controls for group 1 during the vaccination phase and then vaccinated once on day 213. Group 3 consisted of naïve dogs which constituted the control group for the challenge phase. All 12 dogs were infected intravenously with a wild strain of E. canis on day 428 of the study. APP levels were serially measured during two periods: days 0–38 post-vaccination (groups 1 and 2) and days 0–39 post-challenge (groups 1, 2, 3).
Changes in C-reactive protein (CRP), serum amyloid A (SAA), haptoglobin, albumin, paraoxonase-1 (PON-1) and total antioxidant capacity (TAC) were of significantly smaller magnitude in vaccinated dogs and appeared later on a time scale compared to unvaccinated dogs challenged with a wild strain. Alterations in the level of APP during the vaccination phase of the study were of lower extent compared to those in the challenged unvaccinated dogs during the post-challenge phase. Positive APP levels correlated positively with the rickettsial load, body temperature and negatively with the thrombocyte counts (p < 0.05).
Vaccination with an attenuated E. canis strain and challenge with a wild strain resulted in considerably reduced responses of positive and negative APP, and oxidative biomarker responses in vaccinated compared to unvaccinated dogs, reflecting a milder innate inflammatory response conferred by protection of the vaccine.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13071-015-0798-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Ehrlichia canis; 611A strain; Vaccination; Acute phase proteins
Canine Monocytic Ehrlichiosis (CME), due to the bacterium Ehrlichia canis and transmitted by the brown dog tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus, is a major tick-borne disease in southern Europe. In this area, infections with other vector-borne pathogens (VBP) are also described and result in similar clinical expression. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the incidence risk of clinical CME in those endemic areas and to assess the potential involvement of other VBP in the occurrence of clinical and/or biological signs evocative of the disease.
The study was conducted from April to November 2011 in veterinary clinics across Italy, Spain and Portugal. Sick animals were included when fitting at least three clinical and/or biological criteria compatible with ehrlichiosis. Serological tests (SNAP®4Dx, SNAP®Leish tests, Idexx, USA) and diagnostic PCR for E. canis, Anaplasma platys, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia spp, Hepatozoon canis and Leishmania infantum detection were performed to identify the etiological agents. Ehrlichiosis was considered when three clinical and/or biological suggestive signs were associated with at least one positive paraclinical test (serology or PCR). The annual incidence risk was calculated and data were geo-referenced for map construction. The probabilities of CME and other vector-borne diseases when facing clinical and/or biological signs suggestive of CME were then evaluated.
A total of 366 dogs from 78 veterinary clinics were enrolled in the survey. Among them, 99 (27%) were confirmed CME cases, which allowed an estimation of the average annual incidence risk of CME amongst the investigated dog population to be 0.08%. Maps showed an increasing gradient of CME incidence risk from northern towards southern areas, in particular in Italy. It also suggested the existence of hot-spots of infections by VBP in Portugal. In addition, the detection of other VBP in the samples was common and the study demonstrated that a dog with clinical signs evocative of CME is as likely to be positive to Ehrlichia canis as to another VBP.
The study confirms the endemicity of CME in southern Europe and highlights the difficulties encountered by veterinarians to differentiate CME from other vector-borne diseases under field conditions.
Ehrlichia canis; Clinical canine monocytic ehrlichiosis; Spain; Portugal; Italy; Vector-borne diseases; Dog; Incidence risk
Rhipicephalus sanguineus is a ubiquitous tick responsible for transmitting Ehrlichia canis and most likely Anaplasma platys to dogs, as either single or co-infections. The objective of this study was to assess the effects of either simultaneous or sequential experimental infections with E. canis and A. platys on hematological and serological parameters, duration of infection, and efficacy of doxycycline therapy in dogs infected with one or both organisms. Six dogs per group were either uninfected, A. platys infected, E. canis infected, A. platys and E. canis co-infected, A. platys infected and E. canis challenged or E. canis infected and A. platys challenged at day 112 post-infection (PI). Doxycycline treatment was initiated at 211 days PI, followed by dexamethasone immunosuppression beginning 410 days PI.
Initially, transient decreases in hematocrit occurred in all groups infected with E. canis, but the mean hematocrit was significantly lower in the A. platys and E. canis co-infected group. All dogs except the controls developed marked thrombocytopenia after initial infection followed by gradually increased platelet counts by 112 days PI in groups with the single infections, while platelet counts remained significantly lower in the A. platys and E. canis co-infected group. Both sequential and simultaneous infections of A. platys and E. canis produced an enhanced humoral immune response to A. platys when compared to infection with A. platys alone. Likewise, co-infection with E. canis and A. platys resulted in a more persistent A. platys infection compared to dogs infected with A. platys only, but nearly all A. platys infected dogs became A. platys PCR negative prior to doxycycline treatment. E. canis infected dogs, whether single or co-infected, remained thrombocytopenic and E. canis PCR positive in blood for 420 days. When treated with doxycycline, all E. canis infected dogs became E. canis PCR negative and the thrombocytopenia resolved. Despite immunosuppression, neither A. platys nor E. canis DNA was PCR amplified from doxycycline-treated dogs.
The results of this study demonstrate that simultaneous or sequential infection with A. platys and E. canis can alter various pathophysiological parameters in experimentally infected dogs, and because natural exposure to multiple tick-borne pathogens occurs frequently in dogs, awareness of co-infection is important in clinical practice.
Protozoa and bacteria transmitted by arthropods, including ticks and phlebotomine sand flies, may cause a wide range of canine vector-borne diseases. Dogs can be simultaneously or sequentially infected with multiple pathogens. Canine babesiosis caused by Babesia canis canis and Babesia canis vogeli is known to occur in Portugal. This study assessed, by means of blood smear examination, PCR and DNA nucleotide sequencing, the presence of Babesia spp. and co-infecting agents Leishmania, Anaplasma/Ehrlichia and Hepatozoon in 45 dogs from northern Portugal clinically suspected of babesiosis.
Forty-four dogs (98%) had infection with B. canis canis and one with B. canis vogeli. Co-infections were detected in nine animals (20%). Eight dogs were found infected with two vector-borne agents: six with B. canis canis and Leishmania infantum; one with B. canis canis and Ehrlichia canis; and one with B. canis canis and Hepatozoon canis. Another dog was infected with three vector-borne pathogens: B. canis vogeli, E. canis and L. infantum. Overall, L. infantum was found in seven (16%), E. canis in two (4%), and H. canis in one (2%) out of the 45 dogs with babesiosis. Almost 90% of the 45 cases of canine babesiosis were diagnosed in the colder months of October (18%), November (27%), December (20%), February (13%) and March (9%). Co-infections were detected in February, March, April, May, October and November. Twenty-two (50%) out of 44 dogs infected with B. canis were found infested by ticks including Dermacentor spp., Ixodes spp. and Rhipicephalus sanguineus. Mortality (9%) included two co-infected dogs that died spontaneously and two with single infections that were euthanized.
Babesia canis canis is the main etiological agent of canine babesiosis in northern Portugal. A higher sensitivity of Babesia spp. detection was obtained with PCR assays, compared to the observation of blood smears. Twenty percent of the dogs were co-infected with L. infantum, E. canis or H. canis. Furthermore, this is the first molecular identification of H. canis in dogs from northern Portugal.
Ehrlichia chaffeensis, E. canis, and E. ewingii are genetically closely related, as determined by 16S rRNA gene base sequence comparison, but they exhibit biologic differences. E. chaffeensis is the etiologic agent of human ehrlichiosis. E. canis and E. ewingii cause two distinctly different forms of canine ehrlichiosis and infect different types of leukocytes, monocytes and granulocytes, respectively. E. chaffeensis can also infect dogs. In the study, Western immunoblot analysis of sera from dogs inoculated with E. chaffeensis, E. canis, or E. ewingii was performed to determine antigenic specificity and the intensities of the reactions to purified E. chaffeensis and E. canis antigens. At 2 to 3 weeks postexposure, antisera from four dogs inoculated with E. chaffeensis reacted with 64-, 47-, 31-, and 29-kDa proteins of E. chaffeensis but reacted poorly with E. canis antigen. In contrast, at 2 to 3 weeks postexposure, antisera from four E. canis-inoculated dogs reacted strongly with the 30-kDa major antigen of E. canis but reacted poorly with proteins from E. chaffeensis. At 4 weeks postexposure, the sera from three E. ewingii-inoculated dogs showed weak binding to 64- and 47-kDa proteins of both E. chaffeensis and E. canis. Convalescent-phase sera from human ehrlichiosis patients and sera from dogs chronically infected with E. ewingii strongly reacted with similar sets of proteins of E. chaffeensis and E. canis with similar intensities. However, sera from dogs chronically infected with E. canis reacted more strongly with a greater number of E. canis proteins than with E. chaffeensis proteins. The protein specificity described in the report suggests that dogs with E. canis infections can be distinguished from E. chaffeensis-infected animals by Western immunoblot analysis with both E. canis and E. chaffeensis antigens.
Historically, disease manifestations in dogs seroreactive to Ehrlichia canis antigens by indirect immunofluorescent antibody testing have been attributed to infection with either E. canis or Ehrlichia ewingii. A 1996 study by Dawson and colleagues provided PCR evidence that healthy dogs from southeastern Virginia could be naturally infected with Ehrlichia chaffeensis. This observation stimulated us to determine which Ehrlichia spp. infected sick dogs that were referred to our hospital from the same region. Based upon PCR amplification with species-specific primers, sick dogs seroreactive to E. canis antigens were determined to be infected with four Ehrlichia species: E. canis, E. chaffeensis, E. equi, and E. ewingii. Coinfection with three Ehrlichia species (E. canis, E. ewingii, and E. equi) was documented for one dog. An additional canine pathogen presumed to be tick transmitted, Bartonella vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii, was identified in 7 of 12 dogs. Importantly, our results indicate that in naturally infected dogs, E. chaffeensis can cause severe disease manifestations that are clinically and serologically indistinguishable from disease manifestations of E. canis or E. ewingii. In addition, our findings support the efficacy of doxycycline for treatment of E. canis, E. equi, and E. ewingii infections but indicate that, based upon the persistence of E. chaffeensis DNA for 1 year following treatment, E. chaffeensis infection in dogs may be more refractory to doxycycline treatment. Undetected coinfection with Bartonella may also complicate the evaluation of treatment efficacy while resulting in disease manifestations that mimic ehrlichiosis.
The capacity of a topical combination of imidacloprid and permethrin (Advantix®) to prevent transmission of Ehrlichia canis was studied in two groups of six dogs. One group served as controls, whereas the other group was treated. All dogs were exposed to E. canis-infected Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks on Days 7, 14, 21 and Day 28 post acaricidal treatment. The adult R. sanguineus ticks were released into the individual kennels of the dogs to simulate natural tick exposure. In situ tick counts were conducted on Day 9, 16 and 23 and any remaining ticks were counted and removed on Day 30. The efficacy of the acaricidal treatment against R. sanguineus ranged between 96.1% and 98.9% at 48 h post-application and lasted up to 4 weeks. Four out of six control dogs became infected with E. canis, as demonstrated by the presence of specific E. canis antibodies and the detection by PCR of E. canis DNA in blood samples. These dogs became thrombocytopenic and displayed fever and were consecutively rescue-treated by doxycycline. None of the six treated dogs became infected with E. canis, as confirmed by the lack of specific antibodies and absence of E. canis DNA in blood samples. Advantix® prevented transmission of E. canis and provided protection against monocytic ehrlichiosis for 4 weeks post acaricidal treatment.
Imidacloprid; Permethrin; Ehrlichia canis; Rhipicephalus sanguineus; Ehrlichiosis; Transmission
An epidemiological study of Ehrlichia canis infection in dogs in Peninsular Malaysia was carried out using molecular detection techniques. A total of 500 canine blood samples were collected from veterinary clinics and dog shelters. Molecular screening by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed using genus-specific primers followed by PCR using E. canis species-specific primers. Ten out of 500 dogs were positive for E. canis. A phylogenetic analysis of the E. canis Malaysia strain showed that it was grouped tightly with other E. canis strains from different geographic regions. The present study revealed for the first time, the presence of genetically confirmed E. canis with a prevalence rate of 2.0% in naturally infected dogs in Malaysia.
Canine vector-borne diseases are a worldwide concern particularly in the tropics and sub-tropics that provide favourable climatic conditions for the vectors. Malaysia, a tropical paradise, is thus home to a wide range of vectors as well as the pathogens that they harbor. Ehrlichia canis, a ubiquitous tick-borne pathogen of dogs, is the causative agent of canine monocytic ehrlichiosis, the most common clinically significant tick-borne disease of dogs in Malaysia. The pet explosion coupled with the increasing number of stray dogs, has resulted in a surge in vector-borne diseases in companion animals in Southeast Asia. Despite this, there is very little published information regarding this subject in Malaysia. There are only two published studies on E.canis in Peninsular Malaysia based on traditional light microscopic detection and antibody detection techniques. This disease has been notoriously difficult to diagnose based on the traditional methods. This research investigates this important disease of canids using molecular techniques for the first time in Malaysia providing a more accurate picture of its presence and prevalence in the country.
Subcutaneous inoculation of dogs with Ehrlichia canis was investigated as a more appropriate model of canine ehrlichiosis, which is naturally transmitted by arthropod vectors. A dose-dependent response occurred following subcutaneous inoculation of seven groups of dogs with log concentrations of E. canis-infected canine-origin cells. Ehrlichial infection in dogs was defined as concurrence of an increased titer of anti-E. canis immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody in serum, a decreased platelet concentration, and isolation of E. canis by blood culture. In dogs administered the two lowest doses, no changes were detected. In seven of nine dogs administered three intermediate doses, the only change detected was a transient and mild increase in the anti-E. canis IgG antibody titer in serum. Only two of nine dogs inoculated with the intermediate doses developed an ehrlichial infection. Five of six dogs administered the two highest dose of E. canis developed an ehrlichial infection. These dogs had the highest IgG antibody titers in serum and the earliest isolation of E. canis from blood. In dogs that developed an ehrlichial infection, thrombocytopenia occurred by 28 days after inoculation, while increased IgG antibody titers in serum and blood cultures positive for E. canis occurred as early as 14 days postinoculation. Thrombocytopenia and seroconversion occurred later in the course of infection than previously reported for ehrlichial infections induced by intravenous inoculation. The route of administration and E. canis inoculum size can influence the course of ehrlichial infection and should be regarded as important variables in experimentally induced canine ehrlichiosis.
We previously culture isolated a strain of Ehrlichia canis, the causative agent of canine ehrlichiosis, from a human in Venezuela. In the present study, we examined whether dogs and ticks are infected with E. canis in Venezuela and, if so, whether this is the same strain as the human isolate. PCR analysis using E. canis-specific primers revealed that 17 of the 55 dog blood samples (31%) and all three pools of four Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks each were positive. An ehrlichial agent (Venezuelan dog Ehrlichia [VDE]) was isolated and propagated in cell culture from one dog sample and was further analyzed to determine its molecular and antigenic characteristics. The 16S rRNA 1,408-bp sequence of the new VDE isolate was identical to that of the previously reported Venezuelan human Ehrlichia isolate (VHE) and was closely related (99.9%) to that of E. canis Oklahoma. The 5′ (333-bp) and 3′ (653-bp) sequences of the variable regions of the 16S rRNA genes from six additional E. canis-positive dog blood specimens and from three pooled-tick specimens were also identical to those of VHE. Western blot analysis of serum samples from three dogs infected with VDE by using several ehrlichial antigens revealed that the antigenic profile of the VDE was similar to the profiles of VHE and E. canis Oklahoma. Identical 16S rRNA gene sequences among ehrlichial organisms from dogs, ticks, and a human in the same geographic region in Venezuela and similar antigenic profiles between the dog and human isolates suggest that dogs serve as a reservoir of human E. canis infection and that R. sanguineus, which occasionally bites humans residing or traveling in this region, serves as a vector. This is the first report of culture isolation and antigenic characterization of an ehrlichial agent from a dog in South America, as well as the first molecular characterization of E. canis directly from naturally infected ticks.
We report the first isolation and molecular and antigenic characterization of a human ehrlichial species in South America. A retrospective study was performed with serum specimens from 6 children with clinical signs suggestive of human ehrlichiosis and 43 apparently healthy adults who had a close contact with dogs exhibiting clinical signs compatible with canine ehrlichiosis. The evaluation was performed by the indirect fluorescent-antibody assay with Ehrlichia chaffeensis Arkansas, Ehrlichia canis Oklahoma, and Ehrlichia muris antigens. The sera from two apparently healthy humans were positive by the indirect fluorescent-antibody assay for all three antigens. Of the three antigens, samples from humans 1 and 2 showed the highest antibody titers against E. chaffeensis and E. muris, respectively. The remaining serum samples were negative for all three antigens. One year later examination of a blood sample from subject 1 revealed morulae morphologically resembling either E. canis, E. chaffeensis, or E. muris in monocytes in the blood smear. The microorganism, referred to here as Venezuelan human ehrlichia (VHE), was isolated from the blood of this person at 4 days after coculturing isolated blood leukocytes with a dog macrophage cell line (DH82). The organism was also isolated from mice 10 days after intraperitoneal inoculation of blood leukocytes from subject 1. Analysis by electron microscopy showed that the human isolate was ultrastructurally similar to E. canis, E. chaffeensis, and E. muris. When the virulence of VHE in mice was compared with those of E. chaffeensis, E. canis, and E. muris, only VHE and E. muris induced clinical signs in BALB/c mice at 4 and 10 days, respectively, after intraperitoneal inoculation. VHE was reisolated from peritoneal exudate cells of the mice. Only E. chaffeensis- and E. muris-infected mice developed significant splenomegaly. Western immunoblot analysis showed that serum from subject 1 reacted with major proteins of the VHE antigen of 110, 80, 76, 58, 43, 35, and 34 kDa. Human serum against E. chaffeensis reacted strongly with 58-, 54-, 52-, and 40-kDa proteins of the VHE antigen. Anti-E. canis dog serum reacted strongly with 26- and 24-kDa proteins of VHE. In contrast, anti-E. sennetsu rabbit and anti-E. muris mouse sera did not react with the VHE antigen. Serum from subject 1 reacted with major proteins of 90, 64, or 47 kDa of the E. chaffeensis, E. canis, and E. muris antigens. This reaction pattern suggests that this serum sample was similar to serum samples from E. chaffeensis-infected human patients in Oklahoma. The base sequence of the 16S rRNA gene of VHE was most closely related to that of E. canis Oklahoma. On the basis of these observations, we suggest that VHE is a new strain or a subspecies of E. canis which may cause asymptomatic persistent infection in humans.
Although tick-borne diseases are important causes of morbidity and mortality in dogs in tropical areas, there is little information on the agents causing these infections in the Caribbean.
We used PCRs to test blood from a cross-section of dogs on St Kitts for Ehrlichia (E.) canis, Babesia (B.) spp., Anaplasma (A.) spp. and Hepatozoon (H.) spp. Antibodies against E. canis and A. phagocytophilum/platys were detected using commercial immunochromatography tests. Records of the dogs were examined retrospectively to obtain clinical and laboratory data.
There was serological and/or PCR evidence of infections of dogs with E. canis (27%; 46/170), Babesia spp. (24%; 90/372) including B. canis vogeli (12%; 43/372) and B. gibsoni (10%; 36/372), A. platys (11%; 17/157) and H. canis (6%; 15/266). We could not identify the Babesia sp. detected in nine dogs. There was evidence of multiple infections with dual infections with E. canis and B. canis vogeli (8%; 14/179) or B. gibsoni (7%; 11/170) being the most common. There was agreement between immunochromatography and PCR test results for E. canis for 87% of dogs. Only 13% of exposed dogs had signs of a tick-borne disease and 38% had laboratory abnormalities. All 10 dogs presenting for a recheck after treatment of E. canis with doxycycline were apparently healthy although all remained seropositive and six still had laboratory abnormalities despite an average of two treatments with the most recent being around 12 months previously. Infections with Babesia spp. were also mainly subclinical with only 6% (4/67) showing clinical signs and 13% (9/67) having laboratory abnormalities. Similarly, animals with evidence of infections with A. platys and H. canis were largely apparently healthy with only occasional laboratory abnormalities.
Dogs are commonly infected with tick-borne pathogens in the Caribbean with most having no clinical signs or laboratory abnormalities.
Ehrlichia canis, an obligatory intracellular bacterium of monocytes and macrophages, causes canine monocytic ehrlichiosis. E. canis immunodominant 30-kDa major outer membrane proteins are encoded by a polymorphic multigene family consisting of more than 20 paralogs. In the present study, we analyzed the mRNA expression of 14 paralogs in experimentally infected dogs and Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks by reverse transcription-PCR using gene-specific primers followed by Southern blotting. Eleven out of 14 paralogs in E. canis were transcribed in increasing numbers and transcription levels, while the mRNA expression of the 3 remaining paralogs was not detected in blood monocytes of infected dogs during the 56-day postinoculation period. Three different groups of R. sanguineus ticks (adult males and females and nymphs) were separately infected with E. canis by feeding on the infected dogs. In these pools of acquisition-fed ticks as well as in the transmission-fed adult ticks, the transcript from only one paralog was detected, suggesting the predominant transcription of that paralog or the suppression of the remaining paralogs in ticks. Expression of the same paralog was higher whereas expression of the remaining paralogs was lower in E. canis cultivated in dog monocyte cell line DH82 at 25°C than in E. canis cultivated at 37°C. Analysis of differential expression of p30 multigenes in dogs, ticks, or monocyte cell cultures would help in understanding the role of these gene products in pathogenesis and E. canis transmission as well as in designing a rational vaccine candidate immunogenic against canine ehrlichiosis.
A partial 16S rRNA gene was amplified in Ehrlichia canis-infected cells by nested PCR. The assay was specific and did not amplify the closely related Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Ehrlichia muris, Neorickettsia helminthoeca, and SF agent 16S rRNA genes. The assay was as sensitive as Southern hybridization, detecting as little as 0.2 pg of E. canis DNA. By this method, all blood samples from four dogs experimentally infected with E. canis were positive as early as day 4 postinoculation, which was before or at the time of seroconversion. One hundred five blood samples from dogs from Arizona and Texas (areas of E. canis endemicity) and 30 blood samples from dogs from Ohio (area of E. canis nonendemicity) were examined by nested PCR and immunofluorescent-antibody (IFA) test. Approximately 84% of dogs from Arizona and Texas had been treated with doxycycline before submission of blood specimens. Among Arizona and Texas specimens, 46 samples were PCR positive (44%) and 80 were IFA positive (76%). Forty-three of 80 IFA-positive samples (54%) were PCR positive, and 22 of 25 IFA-negative samples (88%) were negative in the nested PCR. None of the Ohio specimens were IFA positive, but 5 specimens were PCR positive (17%). Our results indicate that the nested PCR is highly sensitive and specific for detection of E. canis and may be more useful in assessing the clearance of the organisms after antibiotic therapy than IFA, especially in areas in which E. canis is endemic.
The acquisition and transmission of rickettsial pathogens by different tick developmental stages has important epidemiological implications. The purpose of this study was to determine if male Rhipicephalus sanguineus can experimentally acquire and transmit Ehrlichia canis in the absence of female ticks. Two trials were performed where nymphal and male R. sanguineus were simultaneously acquisition fed on the same infected donor hosts, and transstadially or intrastadially exposed male ticks were fed on separate pathogen-free dogs as a test for transmission. A single-step p30-based PCR assay was used to test canine and tick hosts for E. canis infections before and after tick feeding. E. canis was detected after either intrastadial or transstadial passage in male ticks, the organism remained detectable in both tick groups after transmission feeding, and both tick groups transmitted the rickettsia to susceptible dogs. Infection of dogs via tick feeding resulted in milder clinical signs and lower antibody titers than intravenous inoculation of carrier blood, but further investigation is needed to understand the mechanisms responsible for this observation. These results demonstrate that male R. sanguineus can take multiple feedings, and that they can both acquire and transmit E. canis in the absence of female ticks. This tick development stage could be important in transmission of E. canis, and perhaps related pathogens, between vertebrate hosts under natural and experimental conditions.
Ehrlichia canis; Canine monocytic ehrlichiosis; Tick transmission; Rhipicephalus sanguineus; Metastriata
The tribe Ehrlichieae consists of gram-negative minute cocci that are obligate intracellular parasites classified in the family Rickettsiaceae. Although ehrlichial organisms have been observed in leukocytes for many years, only a few species have been cultured in quantities sufficient for biochemical and molecular analyses. Recents studies on 16S-rRNA sequence analysis and energy metabolism showed that the genus Ehrlichia is closely related to the genus Rickettsia. There is, however, no antigenic cross-reactivity between these genera. Ehrlichial organisms cause a disease called "ehrlichiosis," a noncontagious infectious disease known to be transmitted by a tick in several cases and by a fluke in one case. Ehrlichia spp. infect dogs, ruminants, horses, and humans. Recently, two new ehrlichial diseases, Potomac horse fever and human ehrlichiosis, were discovered in the United States. The etiologic agent of Potomac horse fever, Ehrlichia risticii, is closely related to the known human pathogen Ehrlichia sennetsu. The etiologic agent of human ehrlichiosis is related to Ehrlichia canis, a canine pathogen. In contrast to the genus Rickettsia, members of the tribe Ehrlichieae reside primarily in the cytoplasmic vacuoles of monocytes or granulocytes and cause hematologic abnormalities, lymphadenopathy, and other pathologic changes in the host. However, the actual mechanisms whereby Ehrlichia spp. infect leukocytes, multiply in them, and produce various forms of systemic disease have not been defined. Depending on the ehrlichial species involved, serologic or direct microscopic observation of stained blood smears is currently used to diagnose ehrlichial disease.
The purpose of the study was to compare the sensitivity of PCR with those of cell culture reisolation of Ehrlichia canis, the indirect fluorescent antibody test (IFA), and Western immunoblotting (WI) in the early diagnosis of canine ehrlichiosis. Five German shepherd dogs were intravenously inoculated with 10(7) E. canis-infected DH82 cells. Blood was collected on alternate days during a 2-week postinoculation period. Mononuclear cell fractions were harvested and used for E. canis reisolation and DNA extraction for PCR. The plasma was used for assaying antibodies against E. canis. By PCR, the 16S rRNA gene of E. canis was detected in the mononuclear cell specimens collected as early as day 4 to 10 postexposure (PE). E. canis was reisolated from the blood starting on day 2 PE from all five dogs. The indirect fluorescent antibody test and Western immunoblotting could detect E. canis antibodies as early as 2 to 8 days PE. Cell culture reisolation proved to be the most sensitive and definitive for early diagnosis of ehrlichiosis, but it is not very convenient, since it takes a long time (14 to 34 days) to show up positive. The sensitivity of PCR is comparable to or slightly less than that of other established methods; however, the convenience, quickness, and direct nature of detecting E. canis DNA is expected to make PCR more useful for clinical diagnosis.
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.
Dogs were experimentally inoculated with Ehrlichia canis Florida to assess the efficacy of doxycycline hyclate for the treatment of acute ehrlichiosis. Treatment with doxycycline eliminated infection in eight of eight dogs. Untreated infected control dogs appeared to eliminate the infection or, alternatively, suppress the degree of ehrlichiemia to a level not detectable by tissue culture isolation or PCR or by transfusion of blood into recipient dogs. Prior infection did not infer protection against homologous (strain Florida) or heterologous (strain NCSU Jake) strains of E. canis. We conclude that doxycycline hyclate is an effective treatment for acute E. canis infection; however, these results may not be applicable to chronic infections in nature. Spontaneous resolution of infection, induced by the dog’s innate immune response, provides evidence that an E. canis vaccine, once developed, might potentially confer protective immunity against the organism.
To elucidate whether acute-phase protein responses occur in dogs infected with Ehrlichia canis, C-reactive protein (CRP) and alpha 1-acid glycoprotein (AAG) levels were serially measured in the plasma of five dogs experimentally inoculated with E. canis and 10 sham-inoculated or noninoculated control dogs. The CRP concentration was measured by a canine-specific capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and the AAG concentration was measured by a canine-specific radial immunodiffusion method. In all E. canis-inoculated dogs, a 3.3- to 6.5-fold increase in the plasma CRP concentration and a 1.9- to 8.6-fold increase in the plasma AAG concentration over the preinoculation level occurred at days 4 to 6 postexposure. Despite the persistence of E. canis and high antibody titers, both CRP and AAG concentrations gradually declined to preexposure levels by day 34 postexposure. E. canis-infected dogs had mild and transient clinical signs which resolved without treatment by day 14 postexposure. The CRP and AAG concentrations in control inoculated or nontreated dogs remained within the normal range throughout the experimental period. Of 12 dogs naturally infected with E. canis, 75% had greater than 50 micrograms of CRP per ml and 83% had greater than 500 micrograms of AAG per ml. All of these 12 dogs had chronic and severe clinical signs of canine ehrlichiosis. Thus, elevations in the levels of acute-phase proteins occur in both acute and chronic canine ehrlichiosis. Determination of CRP and AAG concentrations may help in assessing the severity of inflammatory damage in dogs with E. canis infections.
A 30-kDa major outer membrane protein of Ehrlichia canis, the agent of canine ehrlichiosis, is the major antigen recognized by both naturally and experimentally infected dog sera. The protein cross-reacts with a serum against a recombinant 28-kDa protein (rP28), one of the outer membrane proteins of a gene (omp-1) family of Ehrlichia chaffeensis. Two DNA fragments of E. canis were amplified by PCR with two primer pairs based on the sequences of E. chaffeensis omp-1 genes, cloned, and sequenced. Each fragment contained a partial 30-kDa protein gene of E. canis. Genomic Southern blot analysis with the partial gene probes revealed the presence of multiple copies of these genes in the E. canis genome. Three copies of the entire gene (p30, p30-1, and p30a) were cloned and sequenced from the E. canis genomic DNA. The open reading frames of the two copies (p30 and p30-1) were tandemly arranged with an intergenic space. The three copies were similar but not identical and contained a semivariable region and three hypervariable regions in the protein molecules. The following genes homologous to three E. canis 30-kDa protein genes and the E. chaffeensis omp-1 family were identified in the closely related rickettsiae: wsp from Wolbachia sp., p44 from the agent of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis, msp-2 and msp-4 from Anaplasma marginale, and map-1 from Cowdria ruminantium. Phylogenetic analysis among the three E. canis 30-kDa proteins and the major surface proteins of the rickettsiae revealed that these proteins are divided into four clusters and the two E. canis 30-kDa proteins are closely related but that the third 30-kDa protein is not. The p30 gene was expressed as a fusion protein, and the antibody to the recombinant protein (rP30) was raised in a mouse. The antibody reacted with rP30 and a 30-kDa protein of purified E. canis. Twenty-nine indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA)-positive dog plasma specimens strongly recognized the rP30 of E. canis. To evaluate whether the rP30 is a suitable antigen for serodiagnosis of canine ehrlichiosis, the immunoreactions between rP30 and the whole purified E. canis antigen were compared in the dot immunoblot assay. Dot reactions of both antigens with IFA-positive dog plasma specimens were clearly distinguishable by the naked eye from those with IFA-negative plasma specimens. By densitometry with a total of 42 IFA-positive and -negative plasma specimens, both antigens produced results similar in sensitivity and specificity. These findings suggest that the rP30 antigen provides a simple, consistent, and rapid serodiagnosis for canine ehrlichiosis. Cloning of multigenes encoding the 30-kDa major outer membrane proteins of E. canis will greatly facilitate understanding pathogenesis and immunologic study of canine ehrlichosis and provide a useful tool for phylogenetic analysis.
Canine tick-borne parasites have emerged in recent years, showing a wider geographic distribution and increased global prevalence. In addition to their veterinary importance, domestic dogs play an important role in the transmission cycles of some agents by acting as reservoirs and sentinels. This study investigated Babesia, Theileria, Anaplasma, and Ehrlichia species in asymptomatic dogs in ten provinces of Turkey.
DNA obtained from blood samples collected from 757 domestic dogs (243 stray, 351 shelter, 163 pet) of both sexes and various ages were evaluated using PCR and reverse line blotting (RLB) assays.
Of the 757 dogs tested, 41 (5.4%) were found to be infected with one or more parasites. Ehrlichia canis (37/757, 4.9%) was the most common canine tick-borne pathogen, followed by Anaplasma platys (4/757, 0.5%). Babesia canis and Theileria annulata were each detected in 1 (0.13%) sample. Combined infection of E. canis and A. platys was detected in 2 (0.3%) samples. The prevalence of tick-borne pathogens was higher in adult dogs (6.8%) than in those under one year old (3.1%). Difference in infection rate of male and female dogs was not significant. Pet dogs had a lower prevalence of infection (1.2%) compared to stray (7.4%) and shelter dogs (6%) although the difference between stray and shelter dogs was not significant.
Babesia canis, T. annulata, A. platys, and E. canis species were identified at the molecular level in dogs in several provinces of Turkey, with E. canis being the most common species among tick-borne pathogens. Detailed studies should be conducted regarding the existence and prevalence of B. canis and Dermacentor reticulatus in eastern Turkey.
Dog; Babesia canis canis; Anaplasma platys; Ehrlichia canis; Theileria annulata; RLB