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1.  Circulation of four Anaplasma phagocytophilum ecotypes in Europe 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7(1):365.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the etiological agent of granulocytic anaplasmosis in humans and animals. Wild animals and ticks play key roles in the enzootic cycles of the pathogen. Potential ecotypes of A. phagocytophilum have been characterized genetically, but their host range, zoonotic potential and transmission dynamics has only incompletely been resolved.
The presence of A. phagocytophilum DNA was determined in more than 6000 ixodid ticks collected from the vegetation and wildlife, in 289 tissue samples from wild and domestic animals, and 69 keds collected from deer, originating from various geographic locations in The Netherlands and Belgium. From the qPCR-positive lysates, a fragment of the groEL-gene was amplified and sequenced. Additional groEL sequences from ticks and animals from Europe were obtained from GenBank, and sequences from human cases were obtained through literature searches. Statistical analyses were performed to identify A. phagocytophilum ecotypes, to assess their host range and their zoonotic potential. The population dynamics of A. phagocytophilum ecotypes was investigated using population genetic analyses.
DNA of A. phagocytophilum was present in all stages of questing and feeding Ixodes ricinus, feeding I. hexagonus, I. frontalis, I. trianguliceps, and deer keds, but was absent in questing I. arboricola and Dermacentor reticulatus. DNA of A. phagocytophilum was present in feeding ticks and tissues from many vertebrates, including roe deer, mouflon, red foxes, wild boar, sheep and hedgehogs but was rarely found in rodents and birds and was absent in badgers and lizards. Four geographically dispersed A. phagocytophilum ecotypes were identified, that had significantly different host ranges. All sequences from human cases belonged to only one of these ecotypes. Based on population genetic parameters, the potentially zoonotic ecotype showed significant expansion.
Four ecotypes of A. phagocytophilum with differential enzootic cycles were identified. So far, all human cases clustered in only one of these ecotypes. The zoonotic ecotype has the broadest range of wildlife hosts. The expansion of the zoonotic A. phagocytophilum ecotype indicates a recent increase of the acarological risk of exposure of humans and animals.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1756-3305-7-365) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4153903  PMID: 25127547
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Zoonoses; Ixodes ricinus; Wildlife; Epidemiology
2.  Molecular epidemiology of the emerging zoonosis agent Anaplasma phagocytophilum (Foggie, 1949) in dogs and ixodid ticks in Brazil 
Parasites & Vectors  2013;6:348.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an emerging pathogen of humans, dogs and other animals, and it is transmitted by ixodid ticks. The objective of the current study was a) detect A. phagocytophilum in dogs and ixodid ticks using real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR); and b) Determine important variables associated to host, environment and potential tick vectors that are related to the presence of A. phagocytophilum in dogs domiciled in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
We tested blood samples from 398 dogs and samples from 235 ticks, including 194 Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu lato, 15 Amblyomma cajennense, 8 Amblyomma ovale and 18 pools of Amblyomma sp. nymphs. A semi-structured questionnaire was applied by interviewing each dog owner. Deoxyribonucleic acid obtained from ticks and dog buffy coat samples were amplified by qPCR (msp2 gene). The sequencing of 16S rRNA and groESL heat shock operon genes and a phylogenetic analysis was performed. The multiple logistic regression model was created as a function of testing positive dogs for A. phagocytophilum.
Among the 398 blood samples from dogs, 6.03% were positive for A. phagocytophilum. Anaplasma phagocytophilum was detected in one A. cajennense female tick and in five R. sanguineus sensu lato ticks (four males and one female). The partial sequences of the 16S rRNA, and groESL genes obtained were highly similar to strains of A. phagocytophilum isolated from wild birds from Brazil and human pathogenic strains. The tick species collected in positive dogs were R. sanguineus sensu lato and A. cajennense, with A.cajennense being predominant. Tick infestation history (OR = 2.86, CI = 1.98-14.87), dog size (OR = 2.41, IC: 1.51-12.67), the access to forest areas (OR = 3:51, CI: 1.52-16.32), hygiene conditions of the environment in which the dogs lived (OR = 4.35, CI: 1.86-18.63) and Amblyomma sp. infestation (OR = 6.12; CI: 2.11-28.15) were associated with A. phagocytophilum infection in dogs.
This is the first report of A. phagocytophilum in ixodid ticks from Brazil. The detection of A. phagocitophylum in A. cajennense, an aggressive feeder on a wide variety of hosts, including humans, is considered a public health concern.
PMCID: PMC3874603  PMID: 24330631
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Dogs; Ticks; Epidemiology; Emerging zoonoses
3.  Anaplasma phagocytophilum strains from voles and shrews exhibit specific ankA gene sequences 
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is a Gram-negative bacterium that replicates obligate intracellularly in neutrophils. It is transmitted by Ixodes spp. ticks and causes acute febrile disease in humans, dogs, horses, cats, and livestock. Because A. phagocytophilum is not transmitted transovarially in Ixodes spp., it is thought to depend on reservoir hosts to complete its life cycle. In Europe, A. phagocytophilum was detected in roe deer, red deer, wild boars, and small mammals. In contrast to roe deer, red deer and wild boars have been considered as reservoir hosts for granulocytic anaplasmosis in humans, dogs, and horses according to groESL- and ankA-based genotyping. A. phagocytophilum variants infecting small mammals in Europe have not been characterized extensively to date.
We amplified the total ankA open reading frames of 27 strains from voles and shrews. The analysis revealed that they harboured A. phagocytophilum strains that belonged to a distinct newly described ankA gene cluster. Further, we provide evidence that the heterogeneity of ankA gene sequences might have arisen via recombination.
Based on ankA-based genotyping voles and shrews are unlikely reservoir hosts for granulocytic anaplasmosis in humans, dogs, horses, and livestock in Europe.
PMCID: PMC4220824  PMID: 24283328
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Voles; Shrews; Genotyping; ankA gene; Recombination
4.  Anaplasma phagocytophilum Has a Functional msp2 Gene That Is Distinct from p44  
Infection and Immunity  2004;72(7):3883-3889.
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.
PMCID: PMC427402  PMID: 15213131
5.  Transovarial Transmission of Francisella-Like Endosymbionts and Anaplasma phagocytophilum Variants in Dermacentor albipictus (Acari: Ixodidae) 
Journal of medical entomology  2009;46(3):625-632.
Dermacentor albipictus (Packard) is a North American tick that feeds on cervids and livestock. It is a suspected vector of anaplasmosis in cattle, but its microbial flora and vector potential remain underevaluated. We screened D. albipictus ticks collected from Minnesota white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) for bacteria of the genera Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Francisella, and Rickettsia using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) gene amplification and sequence analyses. We detected Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Francisella-like endosymbionts (FLEs) in nymphal and adult ticks of both sexes at 45 and 94% prevalences, respectively. The A. phagocytophilum and FLEs were transovarially transmitted to F1 larvae by individual ticks at efficiencies of 10–40 and 95–100%, respectively. The FLEs were transovarially transmitted to F2 larvae obtained as progeny of adults from F1 larval ticks reared to maturity on a calf, but A. phagocytophilum were not. Based on PCR and tissue culture inoculation assays, A. phagocytophilum and FLEs were not transmitted to the calf. The amplified FLE 16S rRNA gene sequences were identical to that of an FLE detected in a D. albipictus from Texas, whereas those of the A. phagocytophilum were nearly identical to those of probable human-nonpathogenic A. phagocytophilum WI-1 and WI-2 variants detected in white-tailed deer from central Wisconsin. However, the D. albipictus A. phagocytophilum sequences differed from that of the nonpathogenic A. phagocytophilum variant-1 associated with Ixodes scapularis ticks and white-tailed deer as well as that of the human-pathogenic A. phagocytophilum ha variant associated with I. scapularis and the white-footed mouse, Peromyscus leucopus. The transovarial transmission of A. phagocytophilum variants in Dermacentor ticks suggests that maintenance of A. phagocytophilum in nature may not be solely dependent on horizontal transmission.
PMCID: PMC2751609  PMID: 19496436
Ixodid tick; Anaplasma; Francisella-like; transovarial transmission
6.  Analysis of the Population Structure of Anaplasma phagocytophilum Using Multilocus Sequence Typing 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93725.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is a Gram-negative obligate intracellular bacterium that replicates in neutrophils. It is transmitted via tick-bite and causes febrile disease in humans and animals. Human granulocytic anaplasmosis is regarded as an emerging infectious disease in North America, Europe and Asia. However, although increasingly detected, it is still rare in Europe. Clinically apparent A. phagocytophilum infections in animals are mainly found in horses, dogs, cats, sheep and cattle. Evidence from cross-infection experiments that A. phagocytophilum isolates of distinct host origin are not uniformly infectious for heterologous hosts has led to several approaches of molecular strain characterization. Unfortunately, the results of these studies are not always easily comparable, because different gene regions and fragment lengths were investigated. Multilocus sequence typing is a widely accepted method for molecular characterization of bacteria. We here provide for the first time a universal typing method that is easily transferable between different laboratories. We validated our approach on an unprecedented large data set of almost 400 A. phagocytophilum strains from humans and animals mostly from Europe. The typability was 74% (284/383). One major clonal complex containing 177 strains was detected. However, 54% (49/90) of the sequence types were not part of a clonal complex indicating that the population structure of A. phagocytophilum is probably semiclonal. All strains from humans, dogs and horses from Europe belonged to the same clonal complex. As canine and equine granulocytic anaplasmosis occurs frequently in Europe, human granulocytic anaplasmosis is likely to be underdiagnosed in Europe. Further, wild boars and hedgehogs may serve as reservoir hosts of the disease in humans and domestic animals in Europe, because their strains belonged to the same clonal complex. In contrast, as they were only distantly related, roe deer, voles and shrews are unlikely to harbor A. phagocytophilum strains infectious for humans, domestic or farm animals.
PMCID: PMC3974813  PMID: 24699849
7.  Temporal and spatial variation in Anaplasma phagocytophilum infection in Swedish moose (Alces alces) 
Epidemiology and Infection  2013;142(6):1205-1213.
The occurrence of Anaplasma phagocytophilum was investigated in spleen and serum samples from Swedish moose (Alces alces) in southern Sweden (island and mainland). Samples were analysed for presence of A. phagocytophilum DNA by real-time PCR (n = 263), and for Anaplasma antibodies with ELISA serology (n = 234). All serum samples had antibodies against A. phagocytophilum. The mean DNA-based prevalence was 26·3%, and significant (P < 0·01) temporal, and spatial variation was found. Island moose had significantly (P < 0·001) higher prevalence of A. phagocytophilum DNA than moose from the mainland areas. Two samples were sequenced to determine genetic variation in the 16S rRNA and groESL genes. Genetic sequence similarity with the human granulocytic anaplasmosis agent, equine granulocytic ehrlichiosis agent, and different wildlife-associated A. phagocytophilum variants were observed in the 16S rRNA and groESL genes. Our study shows that moose are exposed to A. phagocytophilum in Sweden, and represent a potential wildlife reservoir of the pathogen.
PMCID: PMC4045167  PMID: 24001524
Ehrlichia; epidemiology; HGA; moose; PCR; serology; tick-borne fever
8.  PCR detection of Anaplasma phagocytophilum in goat flocks in an area endemic for tick-borne fever in Switzerland 
Central Switzerland is a highly endemic region for tick-borne fever (TBF) in cattle, however, little is known about A. phagocytophilum in goats. In the present study, 72 animals from six goat flocks (373 EDTA blood-samples) in Central Switzerland were analysed for A. phagocytophilum DNA. A real-time PCR targeting the msp2 gene of A. phagocytophilum was performed and in positive samples the partial 16S rRNA, groEL and msp4 gene were amplified for sequence analysis. Four DNA extracts were positive. Different sequence types on basis of the amplified genes were found. For comparison, sequences of A. phagocytophilum from 12 cattle (originating from Switzerland and Southern Germany) were analysed. The 16S rRNA gene sequences from cattle were all identical amongst each other, but the groEL and msp4 gene differed depending on the origin of the cattle samples and differed from the variants from goats. This study clearly provides molecular evidence for the presence of different types of A. phagocytophilum in goat flocks in Switzerland, a fact which deserves more thorough attention in clinical studies.
PMCID: PMC3671408  PMID: 21395206
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; tick-borne fever; goat; cattle; PCR; 16S rRNA gene; groEL gene; msp4 gene; Switzerland; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; fièvre récurrente à tiques; chèvre; bovin; PCR; gène 16S rRNA; gène groEL; gène msp4; Suisse
9.  Sequential Analysis of Anaplasma phagocytophilum msp2 Transcription in Murine and Equine Models of Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis▿  
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.
PMCID: PMC2268257  PMID: 18094110
10.  Structure of the Expression Site Reveals Global Diversity in MSP2 (P44) Variants in Anaplasma phagocytophilum▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(11):6429-6437.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum, a recently reclassified bacteria in the order Rickettsiales, infects many different animal species and causes an emerging tick-borne disease of humans. The genome contains a large number of related genes and gene fragments encoding partial or apparently full-length outer membrane protein MSP2 (P44). Previous data using strains isolated from humans in the United States suggest that antigenic diversity results from RecF-mediated conversion of a single MSP2 (P44) expression site by partially homologous donor sequences. However, whether similar mechanisms operate in naturally infected animal species and the extent of global diversity in MSP2 (P44) are unknown. We analyzed the structure and diversity of the MSP2 (P44) expression site in strains derived from the United States and Europe and from infections of different animal species, including wildlife reservoirs. The results show that a syntenic expression site is present in all strains of A. phagocytophilum investigated. This genomic locus contained diverse MSP2 (P44) variants in all infected animals sampled, and variants also differed at different time points during infection. Although similar variants were found among different populations of U.S. origin, there was little sequence identity between U.S. strain variants (including genomic copies from a completely sequenced U.S. strain) and expression site variants infecting sheep and dogs in Norway and Sweden. Finally, the possibility that combinatorial mechanisms can generate additional diversity beyond the basic donor sequence repertoire is supported by the observation of shared sequence blocks throughout the MSP2 (P44) hypervariable region in reservoir hosts. These data suggest similar genetic mechanisms for A. phagocytophilum variation in all hosts but worldwide diversity of the MSP2 (P44) outer membrane protein.
PMCID: PMC1695497  PMID: 16966408
11.  Anaplasma phagocytophilum in horses and ticks in Tunisia 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:180.
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.
PMCID: PMC3453519  PMID: 22935132
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Horses; Ticks; 16S rRNA gene; nPCR; IFA; Tunisia
12.  Anaplasma phagocytophilum in ticks in Slovenia 
Parasites & Vectors  2010;3:102.
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.
PMCID: PMC2988007  PMID: 21050436
13.  Distinct Host Species Correlate with Anaplasma phagocytophilum ankA Gene Clusters▿† 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2011;49(3):790-796.
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.
PMCID: PMC3067700  PMID: 21177886
14.  Characterization of Anaplasma phagocytophilum Major Surface Protein 5 and the Extent of Its Cross-Reactivity with A. marginale▿  
Clinical and Vaccine Immunology  2007;14(3):262-268.
Major surface protein 5 (Msp5) of Anaplasma marginale is highly conserved in the genus Anaplasma and the antigen used in a commercially available competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (cELISA) for serologic identification of cattle with anaplasmosis. This study analyzes the degrees of conservation of Msp5 among various isolates of Anaplasma phagocytophilum and the extent of serologic cross-reactivity between recombinant Msp5 (rMsp5) of Anaplasma marginale and A. phagocytophilum. The msp5 genes from various isolates of A. phagocytophilum were sequenced and compared. rMsp5 proteins of A. phagocytophilum and A. marginale were used separately in an indirect ELISA to detect cross-reactivity in serum samples from humans and dogs infected with A. phagocytophilum and cattle infected with A. marginale. Serum samples were also tested with a commercially available competitive ELISA that uses monoclonal antibody ANAF16C1. There were 100% sequence identities in the msp5 genes among all of the A. phagocytophilum isolates from the United States and a horse isolate from Sweden. Sheep isolates from Norway and dog isolates from Sweden were 99% identical to one another but differed in 17 base pairs from the United States isolates and the horse isolate. Serologic cross-reactivity was identified when serum samples from cattle infected with A. marginale were reacted with rMsp5 of A. phagocytophilum and when serum samples from humans and dogs infected with A. phagocytophilum were reacted with rMsp5 of A. marginale in an indirect-ELISA format. Serum samples from dogs or humans infected with A. phagocytophilum did not cross-react with rMsp5 of A. marginale when tested with the commercially available cELISA. These results suggest that rMsp5 of A. phagocytophilum is highly conserved among United States and European isolates and that serologic distinction between A. phagocytophilum and A. marginale infections cannot be accomplished if rMsp5 from either organism is used in an indirect ELISA.
PMCID: PMC1828860  PMID: 17215333
15.  Variant -and individual dependent nature of persistent Anaplasma phagocytophilum infection 
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the causative agent of tick-borne fever in ruminants and human granulocytotropic anaplasmosis (HGA). The bacterium is able to survive for several months in immune-competent sheep by modifying important cellular and humoral defence mechanisms. Little is known about how different strains of A. phagocytophilum propagate in their natural hosts during persistent infection.
Two groups of five lambs were infected with each of two 16S rRNA gene variants of A. phagocytophilum, i.e. 16S variant 1 which is identical to GenBank no M73220 and 16S variant 2 which is identical to GenBank no AF336220, respectively. The lambs were infected intravenously and followed by blood sampling for six months. A. phagocytophilum infection in the peripheral blood was detected by absolute quantitative real-time PCR.
Both 16S rRNA gene variants of A. phagocytophilum established persistent infection for at least six months and showed cyclic bacteraemias, but variant 1 introduced more frequent periods of bacteraemia and higher number of organisms than 16S rRNA gene variant 2 in the peripheral blood.
Organisms were available from blood more or less constantly during the persistent infection and there were individual differences in cyclic activity of A. phagocytophilum in the infected animals. Two 16S rRNA gene variants of A. phagocytophilum show differences in cyclic activity during persistent infection in lambs.
PMCID: PMC2859769  PMID: 20398321
16.  Babesia spp. and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in questing ticks, ticks parasitizing rodents and the parasitized rodents – Analyzing the host-pathogen-vector interface in a metropolitan area 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:191.
The aims of this study were to evaluate the host-tick-pathogen interface of Babesia spp. and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in restored areas in both questing and host-attached Ixodes ricinus and Dermacentor reticulatus and their small mammalian hosts.
Questing ticks were collected from 5 sites within the city of Leipzig, Germany, in 2009. Small mammals were trapped at 3 of the 5 sites during 2010 and 2011. DNA extracts of questing and host-attached I. ricinus and D. reticulatus and of several tissue types of small mammals (the majority bank voles and yellow-necked mice), were investigated by PCR followed by sequencing for the occurrence of DNA of Babesia spp. and by real-time PCR for A. phagocytophilum. A selected number of samples positive for A. phagocytophilum were further investigated for variants of the partial 16S rRNA gene. Co-infection with Rickettsia spp. in the questing ticks was additionally investigated.
4.1% of questing I. ricinus ticks, but no D. reticulatus, were positive for Babesia sp. and 8.7% of I. ricinus for A. phagocytophilum. Sequencing revealed B. microti, B. capreoli and Babesia spp. EU1 in Leipzig and sequence analysis of the partial 16S RNA gene of A. phagocytophilum revealed variants either rarely reported in human cases or associated with cervid hosts. The statistical analysis revealed significantly less ticks infected with A. phagocytophilum in a city park in Leipzig as compared to the other sampling sites. A. phagocytophilum-DNA was detected in 2 bank voles, DNA of B. microti in 1 striped field-mouse and of Babesia sp. EU1 in the skin tissue of a mole. Co-infections were detected.
Our results show the involvement of small mammals in the natural endemic cycles of tick-borne pathogens. A more thorough understanding of the interactions of ticks, pathogens and hosts is the essential basis for effective preventive control measures.
PMCID: PMC3480827  PMID: 22950642
Babesia spp; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Ixodes ricinus; Dermacentor reticulatus; Bank vole; Yellow-necked mouse; Recreational area; Host survey; Vector-host relation
17.  Multilocus sequence analysis of Anaplasma phagocytophilum reveals three distinct lineages with different host ranges in clinically ill French cattle 
Veterinary Research  2014;45:114.
Molecular epidemiology represents a powerful approach to elucidate the complex epidemiological cycles of multi-host pathogens, such as Anaplasma phagocytophilum. A. phagocytophilum is a tick-borne bacterium that affects a wide range of wild and domesticated animals. Here, we characterized its genetic diversity in populations of French cattle; we then compared the observed genotypes with those found in horses, dogs, and roe deer to determine whether genotypes of A. phagocytophilum are shared among different hosts. We sampled 120 domesticated animals (104 cattle, 13 horses, and 3 dogs) and 40 wild animals (roe deer) and used multilocus sequence analysis on nine loci (ankA, msp4, groESL, typA, pled, gyrA, recG, polA, and an intergenic region) to characterize the genotypes of A. phagocytophilum present. Phylogenic analysis revealed three genetic clusters of bacterial variants in domesticated animals. The two principal clusters included 98% of the bacterial genotypes found in cattle, which were only distantly related to those in roe deer. One cluster comprised only cattle genotypes, while the second contained genotypes from cattle, horses, and dogs. The third contained all roe deer genotypes and three cattle genotypes. Geographical factors could not explain this clustering pattern. These results suggest that roe deer do not contribute to the spread of A. phagocytophilum in cattle in France. Further studies should explore if these different clusters are associated with differing disease severity in domesticated hosts. Additionally, it remains to be seen if the three clusters of A. phagocytophilum genotypes in cattle correspond to distinct epidemiological cycles, potentially involving different reservoir hosts.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13567-014-0114-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4334609  PMID: 25487348
18.  Expression of Multiple Outer Membrane Protein Sequence Variants from a Single Genomic Locus of Anaplasma phagocytophilum  
Infection and Immunity  2003;71(4):1706-1718.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the causative agent of an emerging tick-borne zoonosis in the United States and Europe. The organism causes a febrile illness accompanied by other nonspecific symptoms and can be fatal, especially if treatment is delayed. Persistence of A. phagocytophilum within mammalian reservoir hosts is important for ensuring continued disease transmission. In the related organism Anaplasma marginale, persistence is associated with antigenic variation of the immunoprotective outer membrane protein MSP2. Extensive diversity of MSP2 is achieved by combinatorial gene conversion of a genomic expression site by truncated pseudogenes. The major outer membrane protein of A. phagocytophilum, MSP2(P44), is homologous to MSP2 of A. marginale, has a similar organization of conserved and variable regions, and is also encoded by a multigene family containing some truncated gene copies. This suggests that the two organisms could use similar mechanisms to generate diversity in outer membrane proteins from their small genomes. We define here a genomic expression site for MSP2(P44) in A. phagocytophilum. As in A. marginale, the msp2(p44) gene in this expression site is polymorphic in all populations of organisms we have examined, whether organisms are obtained from in vitro culture in human HL-60 cells, from culture in the tick cell line ISE6, or from infected human blood. Changes in culture conditions were found to favor the growth and predominance of certain msp2(p44) variants. Insertions, deletions, and substitutions in the region of the genomic expression site encoding the central hypervariable region matched sequence polymorphisms in msp2(p44) mRNA. These data suggest that, similarly to A. marginale, A. phagocytophilum uses combinatorial mechanisms to generate a large array of outer membrane protein variants. Such gene polymorphism has profound implications for the design of vaccines, diagnostic tests, and therapy.
PMCID: PMC152091  PMID: 12654783
19.  Molecular characterization reveals distinct genospecies of Anaplasma phagocytophilum from diverse North American hosts 
Journal of Medical Microbiology  2012;61(Pt 2):204-212.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an emerging tick-borne pathogen that infects humans, domestic animals and wildlife throughout the Holarctic. In the far-western United States, multiple rodent species have been implicated as natural reservoirs for A. phagocytophilum. However, the presence of multiple A. phagocytophilum strains has made it difficult to determine which reservoir hosts pose the greatest risk to humans and domestic animals. Here we characterized three genetic markers (23S–5S rRNA intergenic spacer, ank and groESL) from 73 real-time TaqMan PCR-positive A. phagocytophilum strains infecting multiple rodent and reptile species, as well as a dog and a horse, from California. Bayesian and maximum-likelihood phylogenetic analyses of all three genetic markers consistently identified two major clades, one of which consisted of A. phagocytophilum strains infecting woodrats and the other consisting of strains infecting sciurids (chipmunks and squirrels) as well as the dog and horse strains. In addition, analysis of the 23S–5S rRNA spacer region identified two unique and highly dissimilar clades of A. phagocytophilum strains infecting several lizard species. Our findings indicate that multiple unique strains of A. phagocytophilum with distinct host tropisms exist in California. Future epidemiological studies evaluating human and domestic animal risk should incorporate these distinctions.
PMCID: PMC3352158  PMID: 21921109
20.  A morphological and molecular study of Anaplasma phagocytophilum transmission events at the time of Ixodes ricinus tick bite 
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.
PMCID: PMC2904780  PMID: 20565721
21.  High Diversity of ankA Sequences of Anaplasma phagocytophilum among Ixodes ricinus Ticks in Germany 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2003;41(11):5033-5040.
In Germany humans with acute granulocytic ehrlichiosis have not yet been described. Here, we characterized three different genes of Anaplasma phagocytophilum strains infecting German Ixodes ricinus ticks in order to test whether they differ from strains in other European countries and the United States. A total of 1,022 I. ricinus ticks were investigated for infection with A. phagocytophilum by nested PCR and sequence analysis. Forty-two (4.1%) ticks were infected. For all positive ticks, parts of the 16S rRNA and groESL genes were sequenced. The complete coding sequence of the ankA gene could be determined in 24 samples. The 16S rRNA and groESL gene sequences were as much as 100% identical to known sequences. Fifteen ankA sequences were ≥99.37% identical to sequences derived from humans with granulocytic ehrlichiosis in Europe and from a horse with granulocytic ehrlichiosis in Germany. Thus, German I. ricinus ticks most likely harbor A. phagocytophilum strains that can cause disease in humans. Nine additional sequences were clearly different from known ankA sequences. Because these newly described sequences have never been obtained from diseased humans or animals, their biological significance is currently unknown. Based on this unexpected sequence heterogeneity, we propose to use the ankA gene for further phylogenetic analyses of A. phagocytophilum and to investigate the biology and pathogenicity of strains that differ in the ankA gene.
PMCID: PMC262509  PMID: 14605135
22.  Anaplasma phagocytophilum p44 mRNA Expression Is Differentially Regulated in Mammalian and Tick Host Cells: Involvement of the DNA Binding Protein ApxR▿ † 
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(23):8651-8659.
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.
PMCID: PMC2168941  PMID: 17905983
23.  Identification of Novel Surface Proteins of Anaplasma phagocytophilum by Affinity Purification and Proteomics▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;189(21):7819-7828.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the etiologic agent of human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA), one of the major tick-borne zoonoses in the United States. The surface of A. phagocytophilum plays a crucial role in subverting the hostile host cell environment. However, except for the P44/Msp2 outer membrane protein family, the surface components of A. phagocytophilum are largely unknown. To identify the major surface proteins of A. phagocytophilum, a membrane-impermeable, cleavable biotin reagent, sulfosuccinimidyl-2-[biotinamido]ethyl-1,3-dithiopropionate (Sulfo-NHS-SS-Biotin), was used to label intact bacteria. The biotinylated bacterial surface proteins were isolated by streptavidin agarose affinity purification and then separated by electrophoresis, followed by capillary liquid chromatography-nanospray tandem mass spectrometry analysis. Among the major proteins captured by affinity purification were five A. phagocytophilum proteins, Omp85, hypothetical proteins APH_0404 (designated Asp62) and APH_0405 (designated Asp55), P44 family proteins, and Omp-1A. The surface exposure of Asp62 and Asp55 was verified by immunofluorescence microscopy. Recombinant Asp62 and Asp55 proteins were recognized by an HGA patient serum. Anti-Asp62 and anti-Asp55 peptide sera partially neutralized A. phagocytophilum infection of HL-60 cells in vitro. We found that the Asp62 and Asp55 genes were cotranscribed and conserved among members of the family Anaplasmataceae. With the exception of P44-18, all of the proteins were newly revealed major surface-exposed proteins whose study should facilitate understanding the interaction between A. phagocytophilum and the host. These proteins may serve as targets for development of chemotherapy, diagnostics, and vaccines.
PMCID: PMC2168727  PMID: 17766422
24.  Molecular Characterization of msp2/p44 of Anaplasma phagocytophilum Isolated from Infected Patients and Haemaphysalis longicornis in Laizhou Bay, Shandong Province, China 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e78189.
Molecular characterization of the MSP2/P44 protein of Anaplasma phagocytophilum may determine not only if the bacterium is capable of invading hosts but also whether it generates antigenic variation for the purpose of escaping the host immune response, resulting in various pathologic injuries and serious clinical outcomes. Chinese anaplasmosis patients usually present with serious manifestations, and the fatality rate is as high as 26.5%. In this study, we amplified, cloned and sequenced the msp2/p44 genes of three Chinese A. phagocytophilum isolates from Laizhou Bay, Shandong Province, where human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) patients present severe clinical manifestations, and analyzed their genetic characterization and structural features. We also compared them with the HZ and Webster A. phagocytophilum strains. The sequences for both strains are available in GenBank. Analyses indicated that Chinese A. phagocytophilum isolates were significantly different from the HZ and Webster strains in terms of nucleotide sequences, amino acid sequences and protein secondary and tertiary structures. Moreover, the number of immunologic B-cell epitopes (19) of the MSP2 protein of the Chinese isolates was higher than that of the A. phagocytophilum strains HZ (16) and Webster (9). This genetic diversity of the MSP2/P44 protein of Chinese A. phagocytophilum isolates might be relevant and might have serious clinical outcomes. This observation could provide a clue to further understand the pathogenesis of Chinese A. phagocytophilum.
PMCID: PMC3805589  PMID: 24167608
25.  Genetic Variants of Anaplasma phagocytophilum Infecting Dogs in Western Washington State 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2005;43(2):796-801.
Eight dogs from western Washington State suspected of being infected with Anaplasma phagocytophilum because of the finding of morulae in peripheral blood neutrophils were studied for determination of the etiologic agent of disease. All cases were diagnosed between April 2003 and April 2004. Six of the eight dogs had no travel history during the 6 months prior to presentation. Two dogs had traveled within the Northwest United States and Canada. Fever, lethargy, and anorexia were the most common clinical signs in the dogs. Lymphopenia, thrombocytopenia, and an elevated activity of alkaline phosphatase in the serum were the most common laboratory findings. All dogs tested during the acute phase of clinical signs were seropositive for A. phagocytophilum antibodies but negative for Ehrlichia canis antibodies. PCR amplification and direct sequencing of portions of the 16S rRNA gene from the whole blood of all seven dogs that were tested yielded A. phagocytophilum after a comparison to bacterial sequences available in the GenBank database. Five genetic variants were identified based on one or two nucleotide differences in the 16S rRNA gene sequences at nucleotide positions 54, 84, 86, and 120. Individual dogs were infected with more than one variant. Treatment with doxycycline or tetracycline resulted in a rapid resolution of clinical signs. The occurrence of canine granulocytic anaplasmosis in western Washington State suggests that A. phagocytophilum infection should be considered in differential diagnoses of dogs presenting with lethargy, anorexia, fever, and lameness, particularly in the context of lymphopenia, thrombocytopenia, and increased serum alkaline phosphatase. The zoonotic importance of A. phagocytophilum should support an increase in surveillance for horses and people residing in this area.
PMCID: PMC548079  PMID: 15695682

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