“Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” (Anaplasmataceae) is an emerging pathogen transmitted by Ixodes ticks. Conventional PCR and the newly developed high-resolution melt PCR were used to detect and discriminate “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” and Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Both bacterial species were frequently found in Ixodes ricinus and Ixodes hexagonus but virtually absent from Dermacentor reticulatus. In rodents, “Candidatus N. mikurensis” was significantly more prevalent than A. phagocytophilum, whereas in cats, only A. phagocytophilum was found.
Neoehrlichiosis caused by “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” is an emerging zoonotic disease. In total, six patients have been described in Europe, with the first case detected in 2007. In addition, seven patients from China were described in a report published in October 2012. In 2009, we diagnosed the first human case of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” infection in the Zurich area (Switzerland). Here, we report two additional human cases from the same region, which were identified by broad-range 16S rRNA gene PCR. Both patients were immunocompromised and presented with similar clinical syndromes, including fever, malaise, and weight loss. A diagnostic multiplex real-time PCR was developed for specific detection of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” infections. The assay is based on the signature sequence of a 280-bp fragment of the “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” 16S rRNA gene and incorporates a “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” species, a “Ca. Neoehrlichia” genus, and an Anaplasmataceae family probe for simultaneous screening. The analytical sensitivity was determined to be below five copies of the “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” 16S rRNA gene. Our results show that the assay is suitable for the direct detection of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” DNA in clinical samples from, for example, blood and bone marrow. In addition, it allows for monitoring treatment response during antibiotic therapy. Using the same assay, DNA extracts from 1,916 ticks collected in four forests in close proximity to the patients' residences (<3 km) were screened. At all sampling sites, the minimal prevalence of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” was between 3.5 to 8% in pools of either nymphs, males, or females, showing a strong geographic association between the three patients and the assumed vector.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis is a newly emerging tick-borne bacterium from the family Anaplasmataceae. Its presence in Ixodes ricinus ticks was reported from various European countries, however, it’s ecology and co-circulation with another member of the same family, Anaplasma phagocytophilum has not been rigorously studied yet.
Candidatus N. mikurensis was detected in all sampling sites. In total, 4.5% of ticks were positive including larvae. The highest positivity was detected in Austria with a prevalence of 23.5%. The probability of Candidatus N. mikurensis occurrence increased with the proportion of ticks infected with Anaplasma phagocytophilum.
A positive association between the occurrences of Candidatus N. mikurensis and A. phagocytophilum indicates that both bacteria share similar ecology for their natural foci in Central Europe.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Ixodes ricinus; Human granulocytic anaplasmosis; Neoehrlichiosis
In Europe, Ixodes ricinus is the vector of many pathogens of medical and veterinary relevance, among them Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and tick-borne encephalitis virus, which have been the subject of numerous investigations. Less is known about the occurrence of emerging tick-borne pathogens like Rickettsia spp., Babesia spp., “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis,” and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in questing ticks. In this study, questing nymph and adult I. ricinus ticks were collected at 11 sites located in Western Switzerland. A total of 1,476 ticks were analyzed individually for the simultaneous presence of B. burgdorferi sensu lato, Rickettsia spp., Babesia spp., “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis,” and A. phagocytophilum. B. burgdorferi sensu lato, Rickettsia spp., and “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” were detected in ticks at all sites with global prevalences of 22.5%, 10.2%, and 6.4%, respectively. Babesia- and A. phagocytophilum-infected ticks showed a more restricted geographic distribution, and their prevalences were lower (1.9% and 1.5%, respectively). Species rarely reported in Switzerland, like Borrelia spielmanii, Borrelia lusitaniae, and Rickettsia monacensis, were identified. Infections with more than one pathogenic species, involving mostly Borrelia spp. and Rickettsia helvetica, were detected in 19.6% of infected ticks. Globally, 34.2% of ticks were infected with at least one pathogen. The diversity of tick-borne pathogens detected in I. ricinus in this study and the frequency of coinfections underline the need to take them seriously into consideration when evaluating the risks of infection following a tick bite.
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
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (CNM) has been described in the hard tick Ixodes ricinus and rodents as well as in some severe cases of human disease. The aims of this study were to identify DNA of CNM in small mammals, the ticks parasitizing them and questing ticks in areas with sympatric existence of Ixodes ricinus and Dermacentor reticulatus in Germany.
Blood, transudate and organ samples (spleen, kidney, liver, skin) of 91 small mammals and host-attached ticks from altogether 50 small mammals as well as questing I. ricinus ticks (n=782) were screened with a real-time PCR for DNA of CNM.
52.7% of the small mammals were positive for CNM-DNA. The majority of the infected animals were yellow-necked mice (Apodemus flavicollis) and bank voles (Myodes glareolus). Small mammals with tick infestation were more often infected with CNM than small mammals without ticks. Compared with the prevalence of ~25% in the questing I. ricinus ticks, twice the prevalence in the rodents provides evidence for their role as reservoir hosts for CNM.
The high prevalence of this pathogen in the investigated areas in both rodents and ticks points towards the need for more specific investigation on its role as a human pathogen.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Bank vole; Yellow-necked mouse; Ixodes ricinus; Dermacentor reticulatus; Recreational area; Host survey; Vector-host relation
‘Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis’ is a tick-borne bacteria implicated in human health. To date, ‘Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis’ has been described in different countries from Africa, Asia and Europe, but never in Spain. However, according to the epidemiological features of the main vector in Europe, Ixodes ricinus, its circulation in our country was suspected.
A total of 200 I. ricinus ticks collected in the North of Spain were analyzed. DNAs were extracted and used as templates for PCRs targeting fragment genes for Anaplasma/Ehrlichia detection. The amplified products were sequenced and analyzed.
‘Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis’ was amplified in two specimens. Furthermore, Anaplasma phagocytophilum was detected in 61 samples analyzed.
The detection of ‘Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis’ in I. ricinus ticks from Spain indicates its circulation and the potential risk of contracting a human infection in this country.
‘Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis’; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Ixodes ricinus; Spain
To estimate the likelihood of people coming into contact with the recently described tick-borne agent “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis,” we compared its prevalence to those of Lyme disease spirochetes and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in questing adult Ixodes ricinus ticks collected in various Central European sites and examined ticks, which had been removed from people, for the presence of these pathogens. Whereas spirochetes infected questing adult ticks most frequently (22.3%), fewer than a third as many ticks were infected by “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” (6.2%), and about a sixth harbored A. phagocytophilum (3.9%). On average, every twelfth encounter of a person with an I. ricinus tick (8.1%) may bear the risk of acquiring “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis.” Although a fifth of the people (20%) had removed at least one tick infected by “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis,” none displayed symptoms described for this pathogen, suggesting that its transmission may not be immediate and/or that immunocompetent individuals may not be affected. Because immunosuppressed patients may be at a particular risk of developing symptoms, it should be considered that “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” appears to be the second most common pathogen in I. ricinus ticks. In our survey, only Borrelia afzelii appears to infect Central European vector ticks more frequently.
“Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” is a new intracellular pathogen associated with human infection and death. “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” infection in a chronically neutropenic dog from Germany was confirmed by DNA sequencing. The same organism was previously described from ticks and two sick human beings from Germany.
Recently, a new genus of Anaplasmataceae termed “Candidatus Neoehrlichia” was discovered in ticks and rodents. Here, we report on two patients who suffered from febrile bacteremia due to “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” associated with thrombotic or hemorrhagic events. 16S rRNA and groEL gene sequencing provided evidence of three groups of sequence variants.
Ixodes ricinus, a competent vector of several pathogens, is the tick species most frequently reported to bite humans in Europe. The majority of human cases of Lyme borreliosis (LB) and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) occur in the north-eastern region of Italy. The aims of this study were to detect the occurrence of endemic and emergent pathogens in north-eastern Italy using adult tick screening, and to identify areas at risk of pathogen transmission. Based on our results, different strategies for tick collection and pathogen screening and their relative costs were evaluated and discussed.
From 2006 to 2008 adult ticks were collected in 31 sites and molecularly screened for the detection of pathogens previously reported in the same area (i.e., LB agents, TBE virus, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Rickettsia spp., Babesia spp., "Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis"). Based on the results of this survey, three sampling strategies were evaluated a-posteriori, and the impact of each strategy on the final results and the overall cost reductions were analyzed. The strategies were as follows: tick collection throughout the year and testing of female ticks only (strategy A); collection from April to June and testing of all adult ticks (strategy B); collection from April to June and testing of female ticks only (strategy C).
Eleven pathogens were detected in 77 out of 193 ticks collected in 14 sites. The most common microorganisms detected were Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (17.6%), Rickettsia helvetica (13.1%), and "Ca. N. mikurensis" (10.5%). Within the B. burgdorferi complex, four genotypes (i.e., B. valaisiana, B. garinii, B. afzelii, and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto) were found. Less prevalent pathogens included R. monacensis (3.7%), TBE virus (2.1%), A. phagocytophilum (1.5%), Bartonella spp. (1%), and Babesia EU1 (0.5%). Co-infections by more than one pathogen were diagnosed in 22% of infected ticks. The prevalences of infection assessed using the three alternative strategies were in accordance with the initial results, with 13, 11, and 10 out of 14 sites showing occurrence of at least one pathogen, respectively. The strategies A, B, and C proposed herein would allow to reduce the original costs of sampling and laboratory analyses by one third, half, and two thirds, respectively. Strategy B was demonstrated to represent the most cost-effective choice, offering a substantial reduction of costs, as well as reliable results.
Monitoring of tick-borne diseases is expensive, particularly in areas where several zoonotic pathogens co-occur. Cost-effectiveness studies can support the choice of the best monitoring strategy, which should take into account the ecology of the area under investigation, as well as the available budget.
Ixodes ricinus; tick-borne diseases; surveillance; economic evaluation; Italy.
Altogether 2004 Ixodes ricinus ticks, from 37 places in Hungary, were analysed in pools with a recently developed multiplex real-time PCR for the presence of Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis and for other representatives of the genus. Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis was identified in nine sampling sites, indicating three separated endemic regions along the borders of Hungary. In addition, results of samples from seven places (except for the western part of the country) were positive in the genus-specific (Ca. Neoehrlichia sp.) PCR, but were negative for Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis.
Tick-borne diseases; Zoonosis; Epidemiology
To further assess the geographic occurrence, possible vectors, and prevalence of Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis, we analyzed spleen tissues from 276 voles trapped close to human settlements in France; 5 were infected with the organism. Sequencing showed the isolates carried the same genotype as the bacteria that caused disease in humans and animals elsewhere in Europe.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; rodents; bank vole; Myodes glareolus; France; zoonoses; wildlife; vector-borne infections; ticks; Ixodes ricinus; bacteria
To identify Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis infection in northeastern China, we tested blood samples from 622 febrile patients. We identified in 7 infected patients and natural foci for this bacterium. Field surveys showed that 1.6% of ticks and 3.8% of rodents collected from residences of patients were also infected.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; bacteria; human infection; ticks; rodents; vector-borne infections; China
Raising abundance of ticks and tick-borne diseases in Europe is the result of multiple factors including climate changes and human activities. Herein, we investigated the presence and seasonal activity of Ixodes ricinus ticks from 10 urban and suburban sites in two different geographical areas of southeastern and northeastern Slovakia during 2008–2010. Our aim was to study the abundance of ticks in correlation with the environmental factors and their infection with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Neoehrlichia mikurensis.
Questing I. ricinus ticks were collected from ten urban and suburban sites in Eastern Slovakia. A total of 670 ticks were further analysed for the presence of B. burgdorferi s.l., A. phagocytophilum and N. mikurensis by molecular methods. Tick site and environmental relations were analysed using General Linear Models (LM). The differences between the number of Lyme borreliosis cases between the Košice and Bardejov regions during a ten-year period were tested by Wilcoxon matched pairs test.
In total, 2921 (1913 nymphs, 1008 adults) I. ricinus ticks were collected from 10 study sites during the main questing season. Tick activity and relative abundance differed between locations and months. Temperature and humidity were the main factors affecting the tick abundance and questing activity. Out of 670 examined ticks, 10.15% were infected with spirochetes from B. burgdorferi s.l. complex (represented by B. afzelii, B. garinii, B.valaisiana and B. burgdorferi s.s.), 2.69% with the A. phagocytophilum and 2.39% with N. mikurensis. The number of Lyme borreliosis cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the Bardejov region was significantly higher than in the Košice region.
Our data indicate that the risk of infection with tick-borne pathogens in Eastern Slovakia is common since 15.2% of ticks were infected at least with one of the tested microorganisms. Even though the abundance of ticks was affected by the microclimatic conditions and the prevalence of pathogens differed between the habitats, the infection risk for humans is also affected by human activities leading to an increased contact with infected ticks.
Ixodes ricinus; Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Neoehrlichia mikurensis; PCR-RFLP; Lyme borreliosis; Anaplasmosis
An immunocompromised patient presented with febrile episodes, an erysipelas-like rash, and thromboembolic complications. Amplification of 16S rRNA gene sequences from blood and sequence analysis revealed “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis.” We report the first case of human disease caused by “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis.”
DNA microarrays can be used to quickly and sensitively identify several different pathogens in one step. Our previously developed DNA microarray, based on the detection of variable regions in the 16S rDNA gene (rrs), which are specific for each selected bacterial genus, allowed the concurrent detection of Borrelia spp., Anaplasma spp., Francisella spp., Rickettsia spp. and Coxiella spp.
In this study, we developed a comprehensive detection system consisting of a second generation DNA microarray and quantitative PCRs. New oligonucleotide capture probes specific for Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. genospecies and Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis were included. This new DNA microarray system required substantial changes in solution composition, hybridization conditions and post-hybridization washes.
This second generation chip displayed high specificity and sensitivity. The specificity of the capture probes was tested by hybridizing the DNA microarrays with Cy5-labeled, PCR-generated amplicons encoding the rrs genes of both target and non-target bacteria. The detection limit was determined to be 103 genome copies, which corresponds to 1–2 pg of DNA. A given sample was evaluated as positive if its mean fluorescence was at least 10% of the mean fluorescence of a positive control. Those samples with fluorescence close to the threshold were further analyzed using quantitative PCRs, developed to identify Francisella spp., Rickettsia spp. and Coxiella spp. Like the DNA microarray, the qPCRs were based on the genus specific variable regions of the rrs gene. No unspecific cross-reactions were detected. The detection limit for Francisella spp. was determined to be only 1 genome copy, for Coxiella spp. 10 copies, and for Rickettsia spp., 100 copies.
Our detection system offers a rapid method for the comprehensive identification of tick-borne bacteria, which is applicable to clinical samples. It can also be used to identify both pathogenic and endosymbiontic bacteria in ticks for eco-epidemiological studies, tick laboratory colony testing, and many other applications.
Tick-borne bacteria; DNA microarray; Quantitative PCR
“Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” was detected by PCR in 4.0% (34/841) of the rodents tested in this study. The 34 rodents represented nine species from seven regions of China. Phylogenetic analyses based on the partial groEL and nearly entire 16S rRNA gene sequences of the agent revealed genetic diversity, which was correlated with its geographic origins.
The order Rickettsiales (Alphaproteobacteria) is a well-known group containing obligate endocellular prokaryotes. The order encompasses three families (Rickettsiaceae, Anaplasmataceae, and Holosporaceae) and a fourth, family-level cluster, which includes only one candidate species, “Candidatus Midichloria mitochondrii,” as well as several unnamed bacterial symbionts. The broad host range exhibited by the members of the “Candidatus Midichloria” clade suggests their eventual relevance for a better understanding of the evolution of symbiosis and host specificity of Rickettsiales. In this paper, two new bacteria belonging to the “Candidatus Midichloria” clade, hosted by two different strains of the ciliate protist Euplotes harpa, are described on the basis of ultrastructural observations, comparative 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis, and an estimation of the percentage of infection. Ultrastructure of these bacteria shows some unusual features: one has an electron-dense cytoplasm, and the other one lacks a symbiosomal membrane. The latter was up to now considered an exclusive feature of bacteria belonging to the family Rickettsiaceae. 16S rRNA gene phylogenetic analysis unambiguously places the new bacteria in the “Candidatus Midichloria” clade, although their phylogenetic relationships with other members of the clade are not clearly resolved. This is the first report of a ciliate-borne bacterium belonging to the “Candidatus Midichloria” clade. On the basis of the data obtained, the two bacteria are proposed as two new candidate genera and species, “Candidatus Anadelfobacter veles” and “Candidatus Cyrtobacter comes.”
Two hemotropic mycoplasmas have been recognized in cats, Mycoplasma haemofelis and “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum.” We recently described a third feline hemoplasma species, designated “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis,” in a Swiss cat with hemolytic anemia. This isolate induced anemia after experimental transmission to two specific-pathogen-free cats and analysis of the 16S rRNA gene revealed its close relationship to rodent hemotropic mycoplasmas. The agent was recently shown to be prevalent in Swiss pet cats. We sought to investigate the presence and clinical importance of “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” infection in pet cats outside of Switzerland and to perform the molecular characterization of isolates from different countries. A “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis”-specific real-time PCR assay was applied to blood samples from 426 United Kingdom (UK), 147 Australian, and 69 South African pet cats. The 16S rRNA genes of isolates from different countries were sequenced and signalment and laboratory data for the cats were evaluated for associations with “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” infection. Infections were detected in samples from UK, Australian, and South African pet cats. Infection was associated with the male gender, and “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum” and M. haemofelis coinfection. Coinfected cats exhibited significantly lower packed cell volume (PCV) values than uninfected cats. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that some Australian and South African “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” isolates branched away from the remaining isolates. In summary, “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” infection in pet cats exists over a wide geographical area and significantly decreased PCV values are observed in cats coinfected with other feline hemoplasmas.
Ixodes ricinus transmits Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, the etiological agent of Lyme disease. Previous studies have also detected Rickettsia helvetica, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Neoehrlichia mikurensis, and several Babesia species in questing ticks in The Netherlands. In this study, we assessed the acarological risk of exposure to several tick-borne pathogens (TBPs), in The Netherlands. Questing ticks were collected monthly between 2006 and 2010 at 21 sites and between 2000 and 2009 at one other site. Nymphs and adults were analysed individually for the presence of TBPs using an array-approach. Collated data of this and previous studies were used to generate, for each pathogen, a presence/absence map and to further analyse their spatiotemporal variation. R. helvetica (31.1%) and B. burgdorferi sensu lato (11.8%) had the highest overall prevalence and were detected in all areas. N. mikurensis (5.6%), A. phagocytophilum (0.8%), and Babesia spp. (1.7%) were detected in most, but not all areas. The prevalences of pathogens varied among the study areas from 0 to 64%, while the density of questing ticks varied from 1 to 179/100 m2. Overall, 37% of the ticks were infected with at least one pathogen and 6.3% with more than one pathogen. One-third of the Borrelia-positive ticks were infected with at least one other pathogen. Coinfection of B. afzelii with N. mikurensis and with Babesia spp. occurred significantly more often than single infections, indicating the existence of mutual reservoir hosts. Alternatively, coinfection of R. helvetica with either B. afzelii or N. mikurensis occurred significantly less frequent. The diversity of TBPs detected in I. ricinus in this study and the frequency of their coinfections with B. burgdorferi s.l., underline the need to consider them when evaluating the risks of infection and subsequently the risk of disease following a tick bite.
vector-borne disease; Borrelia burgdorferi; Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Rickettsia helvetica; Rickettsia conorii; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Babesia; Ixodes ricinus
We have repeatedly detected Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis, a bacterium first described in Rattus norvegicus rats and Ixodes ovatus ticks in Japan in 2004 in the blood of a 61-year-old man with signs of septicemia by 16S rRNA and groEL gene PCR. After 6 weeks of therapy with doxycycline and rifampin, the patient recovered.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; septicemia; human infection; 16S rRNA gene PCR; therapy; tick-borne pathogen; bacteria; dispatch
Ixodes ricinus is the main vector in Europe of human-pathogenic Lyme borreliosis (LB) spirochaetes, the tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) and other pathogens of humans and domesticated mammals. The results of a previous 1994 questionnaire, directed at people living in Central and North Sweden (Svealand and Norrland) and aiming to gather information about tick exposure for humans and domestic animals, suggested that Ixodes ricinus ticks had become more widespread in Central Sweden and the southern part of North Sweden from the early 1980s to the early 1990s. To investigate whether the expansion of the tick's northern geographical range and the increasing abundance of ticks in Sweden were still occurring, in 2009 we performed a follow-up survey 16 years after the initial study.
A questionnaire similar to the one used in the 1994 study was published in Swedish magazines aimed at dog owners, home owners, and hunters. The questionnaire was published together with a popular science article about the tick's biology and role as a pathogen vector in Sweden. The magazines were selected to get information from people familiar with ticks and who spend time in areas where ticks might be present.
Analyses of data from both surveys revealed that during the near 30-year period from the early 1980s to 2008, I. ricinus has expanded its distribution range northwards. In the early 1990s ticks were found in new areas along the northern coastline of the Baltic Sea, while in the 2009 study, ticks were reported for the first time from many locations in North Sweden. This included locations as far north as 66°N and places in the interior part of North Sweden. During this 16-year period the tick's range in Sweden was estimated to have increased by 9.9%. Most of the range expansion occurred in North Sweden (north of 60°N) where the tick's coverage area doubled from 12.5% in the early 1990s to 26.8% in 2008. Moreover, according to the respondents, the abundance of ticks had increased markedly in LB- and TBE-endemic areas in South (Götaland) and Central Sweden.
The results suggest that I. ricinus has expanded its range in North Sweden and has become distinctly more abundant in Central and South Sweden during the last three decades. However, in the northern mountain region I. ricinus is still absent. The increased abundance of the tick can be explained by two main factors: First, the high availability of large numbers of important tick maintenance hosts, i.e., cervids, particularly roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) during the last three decades. Second, a warmer climate with milder winters and a prolonged growing season that permits greater survival and proliferation over a larger geographical area of both the tick itself and deer. High reproductive potential of roe deer, high tick infestation rate and the tendency of roe deer to disperse great distances may explain the range expansion of I. ricinus and particularly the appearance of new TBEV foci far away from old TBEV-endemic localities. The geographical presence of LB in Sweden corresponds to the distribution of I. ricinus. Thus, LB is now an emerging disease risk in many parts of North Sweden. Unless countermeasures are undertaken to keep the deer populations, particularly C. capreolus and Dama dama, at the relatively low levels that prevailed before the late 1970s - especially in and around urban areas where human population density is high - by e.g. reduced hunting of red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and lynx (Lynx lynx), the incidences of human LB and TBE are expected to continue to be high or even to increase in Sweden in coming decades.
Clinical microorganisms isolated during a 5-year study in our hospital that could not be identified by conventional criteria were studied by 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis. Each isolate yielded a ≥1,400-bp sequence containing <5 ambiguities which was compared with the GenBank 16S rRNA gene library; 1,404 such isolates were tested, and 120 were considered unique (27 isolates) or rare (≤10 cases reported in the literature) human pathogens. Eleven new species, “Actinobaculum massiliae,” “Candidatus Actinobaculum timonae,” Paenibacillus sanguinis, “Candidatus Bacteroides massiliae,” Chryseobacterium massiliae, “Candidatus Chryseobacterium timonae,” Paenibacillus massiliensis, “Candidatus Peptostreptococcus massiliae,” “Candidatus Prevotella massiliensis,” Rhodobacter massiliensis, and “Candidatus Veillonella atypica” were identified. Sixteen species were obtained from humans for the first time. Our results show the important role that 16S rRNA gene sequence-based bacterial identification currently plays in recognizing unusual and emerging bacterial diseases.
Anaplasma (formerly Ehrlichia) phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, and Neorickettsia (formerly Ehrlichia) sennetsu are intracellular vector-borne pathogens that cause human ehrlichiosis, an emerging infectious disease. We present the complete genome sequences of these organisms along with comparisons to other organisms in the Rickettsiales order. Ehrlichia spp. and Anaplasma spp. display a unique large expansion of immunodominant outer membrane proteins facilitating antigenic variation. All Rickettsiales have a diminished ability to synthesize amino acids compared to their closest free-living relatives. Unlike members of the Rickettsiaceae family, these pathogenic Anaplasmataceae are capable of making all major vitamins, cofactors, and nucleotides, which could confer a beneficial role in the invertebrate vector or the vertebrate host. Further analysis identified proteins potentially involved in vacuole confinement of the Anaplasmataceae, a life cycle involving a hematophagous vector, vertebrate pathogenesis, human pathogenesis, and lack of transovarial transmission. These discoveries provide significant insights into the biology of these obligate intracellular pathogens.
Ehrlichiosis is an acute disease that triggers flu-like symptoms in both humans and animals. It is caused by a range of bacteria transmitted by ticks or flukes. Because these bacteria are difficult to culture, however, the organisms are poorly understood. The genomes of three emerging human pathogens causing ehrlichiosis were sequenced. A database was designed to allow the comparison of these three genomes to sixteen other bacteria with similar lifestyles. Analysis from this database reveals new species-specific and disease-specific genes indicating niche adaptations, pathogenic traits, and other features. In particular, one of the organisms contains more than 100 copies of a single gene involved in interactions with the host(s). These comparisons also enabled a reconstruction of the metabolic potential of five representative genomes from these bacteria and their close relatives. With this work, scientists can study these emerging pathogens in earnest.