Anaplasma phagocytophilum is a Gram-negative, tick-transmitted, obligate intracellular bacterium that elicits acute febrile diseases in humans and domestic animals. In contrast to the United States, human granulocytic anaplasmosis seems to be a rare disease in Europe despite the initial recognition of A. phagocytophilum as the causative agent of tick-borne fever in European sheep and cattle. Considerable strain variation has been suggested to occur within this species, because isolates from humans and animals differed in their pathogenicity for heterologous hosts. In order to explain host preference and epidemiological diversity, molecular characterization of A. phagocytophilum strains has been undertaken. Most often the 16S rRNA gene was used, but it might be not informative enough to delineate distinct genotypes of A. phagocytophilum. Previously, we have shown that A. phagocytophilum strains infecting Ixodes ricinus ticks are highly diverse in their ankA genes. Therefore, we sequenced the 16S rRNA and ankA genes of 194 A. phagocytophilum strains from humans and several animal species. Whereas the phylogenetic analysis using 16S rRNA gene sequences was not meaningful, we showed that distinct host species correlate with A. phagocytophilum ankA gene clusters.
Ticks act as vectors of many pathogens of domestic animals and humans. Anaplasma phagocytophilum in Europe is transmitted by the ixodid tick vector Ixodes ricinus. A. phagocytophilum causes a disease with diverse clinical signs in various hosts. A great genetic diversity of the groESL operon of A. phagocytophilum has been found in ticks elsewhere. In Slovenia, the variety of the groESL operon was conducted only on deer samples. In this study, the prevalence of infected ticks was estimated and the diversity of A. phagocytophilum was evaluated. On 8 locations in Slovenia, 1924 and 5049 (6973) I. ricinus ticks were collected from vegetation in the years 2005 and 2006, respectively. All three feeding stages of the tick's life cycle were examined. The prevalence of ticks infected with A. phagocytophilum in the year 2005 and in the year 2006 was 0.31% and 0.63%, respectively, and it did not differ considerably between locations. The similarity among the sequences of groESL ranged from 95.6% to 99.8%. They clustered in two genetic lineages along with A. phagocytophilum from Slovenian deer. One sequence formed a separate cluster. According to our study, the prevalence of A. phagocytophilum in ticks is comparable to the findings in other studies in Europe, and it does not vary considerably between locations and tick stages. According to groESL operon analysis, two genetic lineages have been confirmed and one proposed. Further studies on other genes would be useful to obtain more information on genetic diversity of A. phagocytophilum in ticks in Slovenia.
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
Anaplasma phagocytophilum, the causative agent of human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA), shares the same enzootic life cycle as Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. Although La Crosse, WI, is a well-recognized Lyme disease focus with an abundance of Ixodes scapularis vector ticks and the first documentation of HGA occurred in patients from northwestern Wisconsin, local transmission of A. phagocytophilum has not to date been documented. In this study, we evaluated DNA extracted from 201 ticks captured locally by a real-time PCR that targeted a unique region within msp2, and 24 samples (12%) yielded positive results. The PCR also detected A. phagocytophilum DNA in blood samples obtained from 53 patients with clinical abnormalities consistent with HGA, and sequencing confirmed that the DNA was recovered from the Ap-ha variant of A. phagocytophilum, associated exclusively with human infection. The findings therefore confirmed that the upper Midwestern focus for HGA endemicity now includes the regions immediately surrounding La Crosse, WI. The results also validated the utility of the real-time msp2 PCR test for confirming acute HGA in the clinical setting.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the causative agent of human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) in humans and tick-borne fever (TBF) in ruminants. The bacterium invades and replicates in phagocytes, especially in polymorphonuclear granulocytes.
In the present study, skin biopsies and ticks (Ixodes ricinus) were collected from tick feeding lesions on 38 grazing lambs between two and three weeks after access to pastures. The histopathological changes associated with tick bites and A. phagocytophilum infection, were described. In addition the skin biopsies were examined by immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, samples from blood, skin biopsies and ticks were examined by serology, PCR amplification of msp2 (p44), genotyping of rrs (16S rRNA) variants, and compared with the results obtained from histological and immunohistochemical investigations.
Tick bites were associated with chronic and hyperplastic inflammatory skin lesions in this study. A. phagocytophilum present in skin lesions were mainly associated with neutrophils and macrophages. Bacteria were occasionally observed in the Tunica media and Tunica adventitia of small vessels, but were rarely found in association with endothelial cells. PCR and genotyping of organisms present in blood, ticks and skin biopsies suggested a haematogenous and a local spread of organisms at the tick attachment sites.
The present study describes different aspects of A. phagocytophilum infection at the site of tick bite, and indicates that A. phagocytophilum rarely associates with endothelium during the early pathogenesis of infection.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an intracellular tick-borne rickettsial pathogen, which causes granulocytic anaplasmosis in various species of livestock and companion animals and also in humans. Previously A. phagocytophilum has been isolated and propagated in cell lines derived from the tick Ixodes scapularis and in the human promyelocytic cell line HL60. In this study we used the Ixodes ricinus-derived cell line IRE/CTVM20 to isolate and propagate two new canine strains of A. phagocytophilum.
Blood samples were collected by veterinarians from two dogs, one from Germany and the other from Austria. Suspicion of clinical canine granulocytic anaplasmosis was raised by the treating veterinarians and after confirmation of A. phagocytophilum infection by real-time PCR, buffy coat cells were isolated and co-cultivated with IRE/CTVM20 cells maintained at 28 °C in L15/L15B medium.
In the tick cells, rickettsial inclusions were first recognised after 86 days of incubation. Electron microscopic examination of tick cells infected with one of the isolates revealed cytoplasmic vacuoles containing pleomorphic organisms with individual bacteria enveloped by a bilayer membrane. Sequencing of 16S rRNA genes confirmed the isolation of A. phagocytophilum and showed the highest identity to the A. phagocytophilum human HZ strain. The two A. phagocytophilum isolates were passaged several times in IRE/CTVM20 cells and transferred to the I. scapularis cell line ISE6. This confirms for the first time the successful establishment and continuous cultivation of this pathogen in I. ricinus cells as well as infectivity of these canine strains for I. scapularis cells.
Tick cell lines; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; IRE/CTVM20; Dog; Electron microscopy
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the causative agent of Tick-Borne Fever in small ruminants and has been identified as the zoonotic agent of human granulocytic anaplasmosis. The Norwegian strains of the rickettsia are naturally persistent in lambs and represent a suitable experimental system for analysing the mechanisms of persistence. Variation of the outer membrane protein MSP2(P44) by recombination of variable pseudogene segments into an expression site is believed to play a key role in persistence of the organism. The goal of the present study was to analyse the dynamics of the immune response towards A. phagocytophilum and MSP2(P44) during persistent infection of lambs. Responses to the hypervariable region of MSP2(P44) were detected shortly after appearance of the respective variants in cyclic rickettsemic peaks, consistent with a process of antigenic variation. In addition, there was a diminishing antibody response to MSP2(P44) and to other A. phagocytophilum antigens overall with time of infection, that was not associated with clearance of the infection.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; immune evasion; tick borne fever; sheep diseases; zoonosis; antigenic variation
Mast cells are sentinels for infection. Upon exposure to pathogens, they release their stores of proinflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and histamine. Mast cells are also important for the control of certain tick-borne infections. Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an obligate intracellular tick-transmitted bacterium that infects neutrophils to cause the emerging disease granulocytic anaplasmosis. A. phagocytophilum adhesion to and infection of neutrophils depend on sialylated and α1,3-fucosylated glycans. We investigated the hypotheses that A. phagocytophilum invades mast cells and inhibits mast cell activation. We demonstrate that A. phagocytophilum binds and/or infects murine bone marrow-derived mast cells (BMMCs), murine peritoneal mast cells, and human skin-derived mast cells. A. phagocytophilum infection of BMMCs depends on α1,3-fucosylated, but not sialylated, glycans. A. phagocytophilum binding to and invasion of BMMCs do not elicit proinflammatory cytokine secretion. Moreover, A. phagocytophilum-infected cells are inhibited in the release of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-13, and histamine following stimulation with IgE or antigen. Thus, A. phagocytophilum mitigates mast cell activation. These findings potentially represent a novel means by which A. phagocytophilum usurps host defense mechanisms and shed light on the interplay between mast cells and vector-borne bacterial pathogens.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum causes human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) in humans, which has been recognized as an emerging tick-borne disease in the United States and Europe. Although about 65 cases of HGA have been reported in Europe, some of them do not fulfill the criteria for confirmed HGA. Confirmation of HGA requires A. phagocytophilum isolation from blood, and/or identification of morulae in granulocytes and/or positive PCR results with subsequent sequencing of the amplicons to demonstrate specific rickettsial DNA. Seroconversion or at least fourfold increase in antibody titers to A. phagocytophilum has been used as criteria for confirmed HGA also.
Infection with A. phagocytophilum was confirmed by PCR in a patient in Sicily, Italy, who had negative serology for A. phagocytophilum. A fragment of A. phagocytophilum 16S rDNA was amplified by two independent laboratories and sequenced from two separate patient's blood samples. The 16S rDNA sequence was identical in both samples and identical to the sequence of the A. phagocytophilum strain USG3 originally obtained from a dog.
Infection with A. phagocytophilum was confirmed in a patient without a detectable antibody response against the pathogen. The results reported herein documented the first case of confirmed HGA in Sicily, Italy. These results suggested the possibility of human infections with A. phagocytophilum strains that result in clinical symptoms and laboratory findings confirmatory of HGA but without detectable antibodies against the pathogen.
Human granulocytic anaplasmosis; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; 16S rDNA sequence
Anaplasma phagocytophilum , the causative agent of granulocytic anaplasmosis, affects several species of wild and domesticated mammals, including horses. We used direct and indirect methods to compare and evaluate exposure to A. phagocytophilum in horses in northern Tunisia.
Serum from 60 horses was tested by IFA for antibodies to A. phagocytophilum , and whole blood was tested for A. phagocytophilum 16S rRNA gene using a nested-PCR. To examine the risk of A. phagocytophilum transmission, 154 ticks that had been collected from horses were examined for the presence of A. phagocytophilum by nested-PCR targeting 16S rRNA gene.
This is the first time that A. phagocytophilum has been detected in horses in Tunisia, with an overall seroprevalence of 40/60 (67%). Six of the seroreactive samples (10%) had an IFA titer of 1:80, 14 (23%) of 1:160, 8 (13%) of 1:320 and 12 (20%) a titer 1 ≥ 640. The seroprevalence revealed no significant regional and sex differences. In contrast, a significant difference was observed between breeds. Eight (13%) of the horses were positive for A. phagocytophilum in the PCR, with no significant breed and age differences. Hyalomma marginatum was a predominant tick species (130/154), and 3 were infected by A. phagocytophilum (a prevalence of 2.3%). The concordance rate of A. phagocytophilum detection between IFA and PCR had a k value of −0.07.
The results presented in this study suggest that horses infested by ticks in Tunisia are exposed to A. phagocytophilum.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Horses; Ticks; 16S rRNA gene; nPCR; IFA; Tunisia
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an obligate intracellular rickettsial pathogen transmitted by ixodid ticks. This bacterium colonizes myeloid and nonmyeloid cells and causes human granulocytic anaplasmosis – an important immunopathological vector-borne disease in the USA, Europe and Asia. Recent studies uncovered novel insights into the mechanisms of A. phagocytophilum pathogenesis and immunity. Here, we provide an overview of the underlying events by which the immune system responds to A. phagocytophilum infection, how this pathogen counteracts host immunity and the contribution of the tick vector for microbial transmission. We also discuss current scientific gaps in the knowledge of A. phagocytophilum biology for the purpose of exchanging research perspectives.
The msp2 and p44 genes encode polymorphic major outer membrane proteins that are considered unique to the intraerythrocytic agent of Anaplasma marginale and the intragranulocytic agent of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, respectively. In the present study, however, we found an msp2 gene in A. phagocytophilum that was remarkably conserved among A. phagocytophilum strains from human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) patients, ticks, and a horse from various regions in the United States, but the gene was different in a sheep isolate from the United Kingdom. The msp2 gene in the A. phagocytophilum strain HZ genome was a single-copy gene and was located downstream of two Ehrlichia chaffeensis omp-1 homologs and a decarboxylase gene (ubiD). The msp2 gene was expressed by A. phagocytophilum in the blood from HGA patients NY36 and NY37 and by A. phagocytophilum isolates from these patients cultured in HL-60 cells at 37°C. The msp2 gene was also expressed in a DBA/2 mouse infected by attaching ticks infected with strain NTN-1 and in a horse experimentally infected by attaching strain HZ-infected ticks. However, the transcript of the msp2 gene was undetectable in A. phagocytophilum strain HZ in SCID mice and Ixodes scapularis ticks infected with strain NTN-1. These results indicate that msp2 is functional in various strains of A. phagocytophilum, and relative expression ratios of msp2 to p44 vary in different infected hosts. These findings may be important in understanding roles that Msp2 proteins play in granulocytic ehrlichia infection and evolution of the polymorphic major outer membrane protein gene families in Anaplasma species.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is a tick-transmitted bacterial pathogen of humans and other animals, and is an obligate intracellular parasite. Throughout the course of infection, hosts acquire temporary resistance to granulocytic anaplasmosis as they develop immunity specific for the major antigen, major surface protein 2 (Msp2). However, the bacterium then utilizes a novel recombination mechanism shuffling functional pseudogenes sequentially into an expression cassette with conserved 5′ and 3′ ends, bypassing host immunity. Approximately 100 pseudogenes are present in the only fully sequenced human-origin HZ genome, representing the possibility for almost unlimited antigenic diversity. In the present study, we identified a select group of 20% of the A. phagocytophilum HZ msp2 pseudogenes that have matched preferentially to human, canine, and equine expression cassettes. Pseudogenes cluster predominantly in one spatial run limited to a single genomic island in less than 50% of the genome but phylogenetically related pseudogenes are neither necessarily located in close proximity on the genome nor share similar percent identity with expression cassettes. Pseudogenes near the expression cassette (and the origin) are more likely to be expressed than those farther away. Taken together, these findings suggest that there may be natural selection pressure to retain pseudogenes in one cluster near the putative origin of replication, even though global recombination shuffles pseudogenes around the genome, separating pseudogenes that share genetic origins as well as those with similar identities.
The bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum has for decades been known to cause the disease tick-borne fever (TBF) in domestic ruminants in Ixodes ricinus-infested areas in northern Europe. In recent years, the bacterium has been found associated with Ixodes-tick species more or less worldwide on the northern hemisphere. A. phagocytophilum has a broad host range and may cause severe disease in several mammalian species, including humans. However, the clinical symptoms vary from subclinical to fatal conditions, and considerable underreporting of clinical incidents is suspected in both human and veterinary medicine. Several variants of A. phagocytophilum have been genetically characterized. Identification and stratification into phylogenetic subfamilies has been based on cell culturing, experimental infections, PCR, and sequencing techniques. However, few genome sequences have been completed so far, thus observations on biological, ecological, and pathological differences between genotypes of the bacterium, have yet to be elucidated by molecular and experimental infection studies. The natural transmission cycles of various A. phagocytophilum variants, the involvement of their respective hosts and vectors involved, in particular the zoonotic potential, have to be unraveled. A. phagocytophilum is able to persist between seasons of tick activity in several mammalian species and movement of hosts and infected ticks on migrating animals or birds may spread the bacterium. In the present review, we focus on the ecology and epidemiology of A. phagocytophilum, especially the role of wildlife in contribution to the spread and sustainability of the infection in domestic livestock and humans.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; ecology; epidemiology; distribution; hosts; vectors
Human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA), caused by Anaplasma phagocytophilum, is an emerging tick-borne zoonotic disease throughout the world. The first HGA cases in China were documented in 2008, and the greatest challenge posed by the disease is rapid and accurate diagnosis during the acute phage of illness. In this study, we successfully cloned and expressed an A. phagocytophilum immunoreactive surface protein (major surface protein 2 [MSP2]) and demonstrated that this recombinant protein has natural immunogenicity by Western blotting and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) using human HGA-positive sera and reference rabbit HGA-positive sera. The rabbit antisera against the recombinant protein also reacted actively with the natural antigen of A. phagocytophilum by immunofluorescence assay (IFA). No cross-reaction was observed between the recombinant protein and rabbit antisera against 10 common members of the order Rickettsiales by ELISA when the sera were diluted more than 1:100. We concluded that the recombinant MSP2 protein exhibited excellent antigenicity and specificity, results that should lay the foundation for the development of a simple and rapid diagnostic reagent and a vaccination for anaplasmosis.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the tick-transmitted obligate intracellular bacterium that causes human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA). A. phagocytophilum binding to sialyl Lewis x (sLex) and other sialylated glycans that decorate P selectin glycoprotein 1 (PSGL-1) and other glycoproteins is critical for infection of mammalian host cells. Here, we demonstrate the importance of A. phagocytophilum outer membrane protein A (OmpA) APH_0338 in infection of mammalian host cells. OmpA is transcriptionally induced during transmission feeding of A. phagocytophilum-infected ticks on mice and is upregulated during invasion of HL-60 cells. OmpA is presented on the pathogen's surface. Sera from HGA patients and experimentally infected mice recognize recombinant OmpA. Pretreatment of A. phagocytophilum organisms with OmpA antiserum reduces their abilities to infect HL-60 cells. The OmpA N-terminal region is predicted to contain the protein's extracellular domain. Glutathione S-transferase (GST)-tagged versions of OmpA and OmpA amino acids 19 to 74 (OmpA19-74) but not OmpA75-205 bind to, and competitively inhibit A. phagocytophilum infection of, host cells. Pretreatment of host cells with sialidase or trypsin reduces or nearly eliminates, respectively, GST-OmpA adhesion. Therefore, OmpA interacts with sialylated glycoproteins. This study identifies the first A. phagocytophilum adhesin-receptor pair and delineates the region of OmpA that is critical for infection.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum, a member of the family Anaplasmataceae, is the tick-transmitted obligate intracellular bacterium that causes human granulocytic anaplasmosis. The life cycle of A. phagocytophilum is biphasic, transitioning between the noninfectious reticulate cell (RC) and infectious dense-cored (DC) forms. We analyzed the bacterium's DC surface proteome by selective biotinylation of surface proteins, NeutrAvidin affinity purification, and mass spectrometry. Transcriptional profiling of selected outer membrane protein candidates over the course of infection revealed that aph_0248 (designated asp14 [14-kDa A. phagocytophilum surface protein]) expression was upregulated the most during A. phagocytophilum cellular invasion. asp14 transcription was induced during transmission feeding of A. phagocytophilum-infected ticks on mice and was upregulated when the bacterium engaged its receptor, P-selectin glycoprotein ligand 1. Asp14 localized to the A. phagocytophilum surface and was expressed during in vivo infection. Treating DC organisms with Asp14 antiserum or preincubating mammalian host cells with glutathione S-transferase (GST)–Asp14 significantly inhibited infection of host cells. Moreover, preincubating host cells with GST-tagged forms of both Asp14 and outer membrane protein A, another A. phagocytophilum invasin, pronouncedly reduced infection relative to treatment with either protein alone. The Asp14 domain that is sufficient for cellular adherence and invasion lies within the C-terminal 12 to 24 amino acids and is conserved among other Anaplasma and Ehrlichia species. These results identify Asp14 as an A. phagocytophilum surface protein that is critical for infection, delineate its invasion domain, and demonstrate the potential of targeting Asp14 in concert with OmpA for protecting against infection by A. phagocytophilum and other Anaplasmataceae pathogens.
Granulocytic anaplasmosis (GA) is an emerging tick-transmitted disease that persists in rodent- Ixodes ricinus-complex tick cycles across the Holarctic. Although the putative reservoir for anaplasmosis in the western United States is the dusky-footed woodrat (Neotoma fuscipes), this rodent was not shown reservoir-competent because of failure of infection from woodrats to other animals via ticks. Redwood chipmunks are common in habitats where Anaplasma phagocytophilum is common, have high PCR- and seroprevalence, and are infested with a diversity of Ixodes spp. ticks. Experimental infection of seven wild-caught A. phagocytophilum-negative redwood chipmunks induced persistent periods of recurrent rickettsemia during the persistent phase of infection. Of three animals for which xenodiagnosis was attempted, all successfully infected pools of I. pacificus larvae during the primary rickettsemia. We show that chipmunks are reservoir-competent for GA and may be important for maintaining infection in nature.
disease ecology; Ixodes; sciurid; tick-borne disease
The natural life cycle of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, an obligatory intracellular bacterium that causes human granulocytic anaplasmosis, consists of alternate infection of two distinct hosts, ticks and mammals, in which bacterial surface proteins are expected to have a critical role. The present study investigated regulation of A. phagocytophilum p44 genes, which encode the P44 major surface proteins. Quantitative real-time reverse transcription-PCR analysis revealed that the amount of p44 mRNA obtained from spleens of A. phagocytophilum-infected SCID mice was approximately 10-fold greater than the amount obtained from salivary glands of A. phagocytophilum-infected Ixodes scapularis nymphs. Similarly, the amount of p44 mRNA obtained from A. phagocytophilum-infected HL-60 cells per bacterium was significantly greater than the amount obtained from infected ISE6 tick cells. The relative amount of p44 mRNA was approximately threefold higher in A. phagocytophilum-infected HL-60 cells cultured at 37°C than in A. phagocytophilum-infected HL-60 cells cultured at 28°C. Although there are more than 100 p44 paralogs, we observed expression mainly from the p44 expression locus (p44E) in various host environments. Interestingly, transcription of the A. phagocytophilum gene encoding the DNA binding protein ApxR was also significantly greater in A. phagocytophilum-infected HL-60 cells than in infected ISE6 tick cells. Gel mobility shift and DNase I protection assays revealed recombinant ApxR binding to the promoter regions of p44E and apxR. ApxR also transactivated the p44E and apxR promoter regions in a lacZ reporter assay. These results indicate that p44 genes and apxR are specifically up-regulated in the mammalian host environment and suggest that ApxR not only is positively autoregulated but also acts as a transcriptional regulator of p44E.
Human granulocytic anaplasmosis is an emerging tick-borne disease caused by Anaplasma phagocytophilum. A. phagocytophilum cells activate Toll-like receptor 2 signaling and possess mitogenic activity, and A. phagocytophilum infection in vivo activates NKT cells unrelated to major surface protein 2 (Msp2) hypervariable region expression. Thus, we hypothesized that lipoprotein or glycolipid components of A. phagocytophilum membranes could be important triggers of the innate immune response and immunopathology. A. phagocytophilum membranes depleted of Msp2 and protein antigens enhanced the proliferation of naïve mouse splenocytes beyond that of untreated membranes. Protein-depleted and polar lipid-enriched membranes from low-passage A. phagocytophilum cultures enhanced naïve splenocyte lymphoproliferation to a much greater degree than did these fractions from high-passage cultures of bacterial membranes (1.8- to 3.7-fold for protein-depleted fractions and 4.8- to ≥17.7-fold for polar lipid-enriched fractions). These results support the hypothesis that components that are enriched among polar lipids in the A. phagocytophilum membrane stimulate innate immune cell proliferation, possibly activating NKT cells that link innate and adaptive immunity, and immunopathology.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum infects a wide variety of hosts and causes granulocytic anaplasmosis in humans, horses and dogs and tick-borne fever in ruminants. Infection with A. phagocytophilum results in the modification of host gene expression and immune response. The objective of this research was to characterize gene expression in pigs (Sus scrofa) naturally and experimentally infected with A. phagocytophilum trying to identify mechanisms that help to explain low infection prevalence in this species.
For gene expression analysis in naturally infected pigs, microarray hybridization was used. The expression of differentially expressed immune response genes was analyzed by real-time RT-PCR in naturally and experimentally infected pigs. Results suggested that A. phagocytophilum infection affected cytoskeleton rearrangement and increased both innate and adaptive immune responses by up regulation of interleukin 1 receptor accessory protein-like 1 (IL1RAPL1), T-cell receptor alpha chain (TCR-alpha), thrombospondin 4 (TSP-4) and Gap junction protein alpha 1 (GJA1) genes. Higher serum levels of IL-1 beta, IL-8 and TNF-alpha in infected pigs when compared to controls supported data obtained at the mRNA level.
These results suggested that pigs are susceptible to A. phagocytophilum but control infection, particularly through activation of innate immune responses, phagocytosis and autophagy. This fact may account for the low infection prevalence detected in pigs in some regions and thus their low or no impact as a reservoir host for this pathogen. These results advanced our understanding of the molecular mechanisms at the host-pathogen interface and suggested a role for newly reported genes in the protection of pigs against A. phagocytophilum.
Anaplasmosis; Genetics; Pig; Wild boar; Genomics; Immune response
Although Ixodes spp. are the most common ticks in North-Western Europe, recent reports indicated an expanding geographical distribution of Dermacentor reticulatus in Western Europe. Recently, the establishment of a D. reticulatus population in Belgium was described. D. reticulatus is an important vector of canine and equine babesiosis and can transmit several Rickettsia species, Coxiella burnetii and tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV), whilst Ixodes spp. are vectors of pathogens causing babesiosis, borreliosis, anaplasmosis, rickettsiosis and TBEV.
A survey was conducted in 2008-2009 to investigate the presence of different tick species and associated pathogens on dogs and cats in Belgium. Ticks were collected from dogs and cats in 75 veterinary practices, selected by stratified randomization. All collected ticks were morphologically determined and analysed for the presence of Babesia spp., Borrelia spp., Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Rickettsia DNA.
In total 2373 ticks were collected from 647 dogs and 506 cats. Ixodes ricinus (76.4%) and I. hexagonus (22.6%) were the predominant species. Rhipicephalus sanguineus (0.3%) and D. reticulatus (0.8%) were found in low numbers on dogs only. All dogs infested with R. sanguineus had a recent travel history, but D. reticulatus were collected from a dog without a history of travelling abroad. Of the collected Ixodes ticks, 19.5% were positive for A. phagocytophilum and 10.1% for Borrelia spp. (B. afzelii, B. garinii, B. burgdorferi s.s., B. lusitaniae, B. valaisiana and B. spielmanii). Rickettsia helvetica was found in 14.1% of Ixodes ticks. All Dermacentor ticks were negative for all the investigated pathogens, but one R. sanguineus tick was positive for Rickettsia massiliae.
D. reticulatus was confirmed to be present as an indigenous parasite in Belgium. B. lusitaniae and R. helvetica were detected in ticks in Belgium for the first time.
Ticks; Dermacentor reticulatus; Dogs; Cats; Belgium; Borrelia; Anaplasma; Rickettsia
Lyme disease is transmitted by the bite of certain Ixodes ticks, which can also transmit Anaplasma phagocytophilum, the cause of human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA). Although culture can be used to identify patients infected with A. phagocytophilum and is the microbiologic gold standard, few studies have evaluated culture-confirmed patients with HGA. We conducted a prospective study in which blood culture was used to detect HGA infection in patients with a compatible clinical illness. Early Lyme disease was defined by the presence of erythema migrans. The epidemiologic, clinical, and laboratory features of 44 patients with culture-confirmed HGA were compared with those of a convenience sample of 62 patients with early Lyme disease. Coinfected patients were excluded. Patients with HGA had more symptoms (P = 0.003) and had a higher body temperature on presentation (P < 0.001) than patients with early Lyme disease. HGA patients were also more likely to have a headache, dizziness, myalgias, abdominal pain, anorexia, leukopenia, lymphopenia, thrombocytopenia, or elevated liver enzymes. A direct correlation between the number of symptoms and the duration of illness at time of presentation (rho = 0.389, P = 0.009) was observed for HGA patients but not for patients with Lyme disease. In conclusion, although there are overlapping features, culture-confirmed HGA is a more severe illness than early Lyme disease.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum causes human granulocytic anaplasmosis by inducing immunopathologic responses. Its immunodominant Msp2 protein is encoded by a family of >100 paralogs. Msp2 (msp2) expression modulates in the absence of immune pressure, and prolonged in vitro passage modulates in vivo virulence. Because programmed MSP2 expression occurs in Anaplasma marginale, we hypothesized a similar event in A. phagocytophilum in vivo, with specific Msp2 expression triggering immunopathologic injury or clinical manifestations of disease. We examined msp2 transcripts in 11 B6 mice and 6 horses inoculated with low- or high-passage A. phagocytophilum Webster strain. Blood was sequentially obtained through 3 weeks postinfection for msp2 reverse transcription-PCR. Horses were additionally assessed for clinical manifestations, seroconversion, complete blood count, blood chemistry, and cytokine gene transcription. In both species, there was no consistent emergence of msp2 transcripts, and all 22 msp2 variants were detected in both passage groups. Clinical severity was much higher for high-passage-infected than for low-passage-infected horses, preceded by higher levels of blood gamma interferon transcription on day 7. Antibody was first detected on day 7, and all horses seroconverted by day 22, with a trend toward lower antibody titers in low-passage-infected animals. Leukocyte and platelet counts were similar between experimental groups except on day 13, when low-passage-infected animals had more profound thrombocytopenia. These findings corroborate studies with mice, where msp2 diversity did not explain differences in hepatic histopathology, but differ from the paradigm of low-passage A. phagocytophilum causing more significant clinical illness. Alteration in transcription of msp2 has no bearing on clinical disease in horses, suggesting the existence of a separate proinflammatory component differentially expressed with changing in vitro passage.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum has long been known to cause tick-borne fever in ruminants and has been identified more recently as the causative agent of the emerging disease human granulocytic anaplasmosis. The related organism Anaplasma marginale uses gene conversion of the expression site for two major outer membrane proteins (OMPs) to generate extensive sequence and antigenic variation in these OMPs. This is thought to present a continuously varying repertoire of epitopes to the mammalian host and allow disease persistence. Recent genomic and structural data on human strains of A. phagocytophilum, together with animal studies in model systems, have implicated an orthologous OMP of A. phagocytophilum in a similar mechanism of variation. However, to date there has been little investigation of the mechanisms of antigenic variation or disease persistence in hosts naturally infected with field strains of A. phagocytophilum. Approximately 300,000 lambs in Norway suffer severe disease caused by A. phagocytophilum annually. We show here the persistent and cyclic nature of infection in these animals that is accompanied by loosely programmed sequence variation of the major OMP expression site in each rickettsemic peak. These data will allow analysis of interactions between A. phagocytophilum and the host immune system in naturally occurring persistent infections and provide an important comparison with enduring infections of cattle caused by A. marginale.