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1.  Identification, Molecular Characterization, and Occurrence of Two Bovine Hemoplasma Species in Swiss Cattle and Development of Real-Time TaqMan Quantitative PCR Assays for Diagnosis of Bovine Hemoplasma Infections▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2010;48(10):3563-3568.
Concomitantly with an outbreak of fatal anaplasmosis in a cattle herd in Switzerland in 2002, we detected two bovine hemoplasma species in diseased animals: Mycoplasma wenyonii (formerly Eperythrozoon wenyonii) and a second, novel bovine hemoplasma species later designated “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemobos” (synonym, “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemobovis”). The second species was characterized by a shorter 16S rRNA gene. The aims of the present study were to provide a detailed molecular characterization of this species, to develop specific quantitative real-time PCR assays for the two bovine hemoplasma species, and to apply these assays in order to evaluate the prevalence and clinical significance of the hemoplasmas. Sequencing of the near-complete 16S rRNA gene of the second hemoplasma revealed that it was 94% identical to that of Mycoplasma haemofelis, an anemia-inducing feline hemoplasma species, but less than 85% identical to that of the bovine hemoplasma M. wenyonii. Using the newly developed assays, a total of 159 animals from the anaplasmosis outbreak were reexamined. In addition, we tested 57 clinically ill and 61 healthy Swiss cattle, as well as 47 calves. Both hemoplasmas were highly prevalent in adult cattle but occurred rarely in calves. Animals from the herd with the fatal anemia outbreak were more frequently infected with M. wenyonii and exhibited higher M. wenyonii blood loads than animals with unrelated diseases and healthy animals. Coinfections may increase the pathogenicity and clinical significance of bovine hemoplasmosis.
doi:10.1128/JCM.02224-09
PMCID: PMC2953077  PMID: 20686093
2.  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.
doi:10.1128/IAI.71.4.1706-1718.2003
PMCID: PMC152091  PMID: 12654783
3.  Diagnosis and incidence risk of clinical canine monocytic ehrlichiosis under field conditions in Southern Europe 
Background
Canine Monocytic Ehrlichiosis (CME), due to the bacterium Ehrlichia canis and transmitted by the brown dog tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus, is a major tick-borne disease in southern Europe. In this area, infections with other vector-borne pathogens (VBP) are also described and result in similar clinical expression. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the incidence risk of clinical CME in those endemic areas and to assess the potential involvement of other VBP in the occurrence of clinical and/or biological signs evocative of the disease.
Methods
The study was conducted from April to November 2011 in veterinary clinics across Italy, Spain and Portugal. Sick animals were included when fitting at least three clinical and/or biological criteria compatible with ehrlichiosis. Serological tests (SNAP®4Dx, SNAP®Leish tests, Idexx, USA) and diagnostic PCR for E. canis, Anaplasma platys, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia spp, Hepatozoon canis and Leishmania infantum detection were performed to identify the etiological agents. Ehrlichiosis was considered when three clinical and/or biological suggestive signs were associated with at least one positive paraclinical test (serology or PCR). The annual incidence risk was calculated and data were geo-referenced for map construction. The probabilities of CME and other vector-borne diseases when facing clinical and/or biological signs suggestive of CME were then evaluated.
Results
A total of 366 dogs from 78 veterinary clinics were enrolled in the survey. Among them, 99 (27%) were confirmed CME cases, which allowed an estimation of the average annual incidence risk of CME amongst the investigated dog population to be 0.08%. Maps showed an increasing gradient of CME incidence risk from northern towards southern areas, in particular in Italy. It also suggested the existence of hot-spots of infections by VBP in Portugal. In addition, the detection of other VBP in the samples was common and the study demonstrated that a dog with clinical signs evocative of CME is as likely to be positive to Ehrlichia canis as to another VBP.
Conclusions
The study confirms the endemicity of CME in southern Europe and highlights the difficulties encountered by veterinarians to differentiate CME from other vector-borne diseases under field conditions.
doi:10.1186/s13071-014-0613-4
PMCID: PMC4302712  PMID: 25561342
Ehrlichia canis; Clinical canine monocytic ehrlichiosis; Spain; Portugal; Italy; Vector-borne diseases; Dog; Incidence risk
4.  Anaplasma phagocytophilum—a widespread multi-host pathogen with highly adaptive strategies 
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.
doi:10.3389/fcimb.2013.00031
PMCID: PMC3717505  PMID: 23885337
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; ecology; epidemiology; distribution; hosts; vectors
5.  Sequence Analysis of the msp4 Gene of Anaplasma phagocytophilum Strains 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2005;43(3):1309-1317.
The causative agent of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis was recently reclassified as Anaplasma phagocytophilum, unifying previously described bacteria that cause disease in humans, horses, dogs, and ruminants. For the characterization of genetic heterogeneity in this species, the homologue of Anaplasma marginale major surface protein 4 gene (msp4) was identified, and the coding region was PCR amplified and sequenced from a variety of sources, including 50 samples from the United States, Germany, Poland, Norway, Italy, and Switzerland and 4 samples of A. phagocytophilum-like organisms obtained from white-tailed deer in the United States. Sequence variation between strains of A. phagocytophilum (90 to 100% identity at the nucleotide level and 92 to 100% similarity at the protein level) was higher than in A. marginale. Phylogenetic analyses of msp4 sequences did not provide phylogeographic information but did differentiate strains of A. phagocytophilum obtained from ruminants from those obtained from humans, dogs, and horses. The sequence analysis of the recently discovered A. phagocytophilum msp2 gene corroborated these results. The results reported here suggest that although A. phagocytophilum-like organisms from white-tailed deer may be closely related to A. phagocytophilum, they could be more diverse. These results suggest that A. phagocytophilum strains from ruminants could share some common characteristics, including reservoirs and pathogenicity, which may be different from strains that infect humans.
doi:10.1128/JCM.43.3.1309-1317.2005
PMCID: PMC1081214  PMID: 15750101
6.  Tick-borne haemoparasites in African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) from two wildlife areas in Northern Botswana 
Parasites & Vectors  2015;8:26.
Background
The African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is a host for many pathogens known to cause economically important diseases and is often considered an important reservoir for livestock diseases. Theileriosis, heartwater, babesiosis and anaplasmosis are considered the most important tick-borne diseases of livestock in sub-Saharan Africa, resulting in extensive economic losses to livestock farmers in endemic areas. Information on the distribution of tick-borne diseases and ticks is scarce in Northern Botswana. Nevertheless, this data is necessary for targeting surveillance and control measures in livestock production at national level.
Methods
In order to address this gap, we analyzed 120 blood samples from buffalo herds for the presence of common tick-borne haemoparasites causing disease in livestock, collected in two of the main wildlife areas of Northern Botswana: the Chobe National Park (CNP, n = 64) and the Okavango Delta (OD, n = 56).
Results
Analysis of the reverse line blot (RLB) hybridization assay results revealed the presence of Theileria, Babesia, Anaplasma and Ehrlichia species, either as single or mixed infections. Among the Theileria spp. present, T. parva (60%) and T. mutans (37%) were the most prevalent. Other species of interest were Anaplasma marginale subsp. centrale (30%), A. marginale (20%), Babesia occultans (23%) and Ehrlichia ruminantium (6%). The indirect fluorescent antibody test (IFAT) indicated 74% of samples to be positive for the presence of T. parva antibodies. Quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) detected the highest level of animals infected with T. parva (81% of the samples). The level of agreement between the tests for detection of T. parva positive animals was higher between qPCR and IFAT (kappa = 0.56), than between qPCR and RLB (kappa = 0.26) or the latter and IFAT (kappa = 0.15).
Conclusions
This is the first report of tick-borne haemoparasites in African buffalo from northern Botswana, where animals from the CNP showed higher levels of infection than those from OD. Considering the absence of fences separating wildlife and livestock in the CNP and the higher levels of some parasite species in buffalo from that area, surveillance of tick-borne diseases in livestock at the interface in the CNP should be prioritized.
doi:10.1186/s13071-014-0627-y
PMCID: PMC4302575  PMID: 25589064
Botswana; African buffalo; Haemoparasites; Tick-borne diseases; Theileria; Babesia; Anaplasma; Ehrlichia; Reverse line blot hybridization assay; Real-time PCR; IFAT
7.  Retrospective Study of Hemoparasites in Cattle in Southern Italy by Reverse Line Blot Hybridization 
ABSTRACT
Tick-borne diseases are widespread in tropical and temperate regions and are responsible for important economic losses in those areas. In order to assess the presence and prevalence of various pathogens in southern Italy, we retrospectively analyzed cattle blood samples collected for a previous study in 2000 using reverse line blot (RLB) hybridization. The study had been carried out in three regions of southern Italy on 1,500 randomly selected and apparently healthy adult cattle. RLB showed that 43.7% of the cattle were positive for nine different species of hemoparasites with either a single infection or a mixed infection. Theileria buffeli was the most common species found, being present in 27.3% of the animals, followed by Anaplasma marginale in 18.1%, Anaplasma centrale in 13.8%, Babesia bigemina and Anaplasma bovis in 4.2%, Anaplasma phagocytophilum in 1.7%, Babesia bovis in 1.6%, Babesia major in 0.2% and Babesia divergens in 0.1%. Complete blood counts showed different degrees of anemia in 363 animals (24.2%) and of these, 169 were RLB-positive for at least one pathogen. Among the ticks that were collected from the cattle, the following species were identified: Rhipicephalus bursa, Ixodes ricinus, Hyalomma marginatum, Boophilus annulatus, Dermacentor marginatus and Haemaphysalis (sulcata, parva, inermis and punctata). The results obtained confirmed the spread of endemic tick-borne pathogens in the regions studied.
doi:10.1292/jvms.13-0365
PMCID: PMC4108771  PMID: 24614604
cattle; epidemiology; Italy; reverse line blot; tick-borne disease
8.  Transformation of Anaplasma marginale 
Veterinary Parasitology  2010;167(2-4):167-174.
The tick-borne pathogen, Anaplasma marginale, has a complex life cycle involving ruminants and ixodid ticks. It causes bovine anaplasmosis, a disease with significant economic impact on cattle farming worldwide. The obligate intracellular growth requirement of the bacteria poses a challenging obstacle to their genetic manipulation, a problem shared with other prokaryotes in the genera Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and Rickettsia. Following our successful transformation of the human anaplasmosis agent, A. phagocytophilum, we produced plasmid constructs (a transposon bearing plasmid, pHimarAm-trTurboGFP-SS, and a transposase expression plasmid, pET28Am-trA7) designed to mediate random insertion of the TurboGFP and spectinomycin/streptomycin resistance genes by the Himar1 allele A7 into the A. marginale chromosome. In these trans constructs, expression of the fluorescent and the selectable markers on the transposon, and expression of the transposase are under control of the A. marginale tr promoter. Constructs were co-electroporated into A. marginale St. Maries purified from tick cell culture, and bacteria incubated for 2 months under selection with a combination of spectinomycin and streptomycin. At that time, ≤1% of tick cells contained colonies of brightly fluorescent Anaplasma, which eventually increased to infect about 80–90% of the cells. Cloning of the insertion site in E. coli and DNA sequence analyses demonstrated insertion of the entire plasmid pHimarAm-trTurboGFP-SS encoding the transposon in frame into the native tr region of A. marginale in an apparent single homologous crossover event not mediated by the transposase. Transformants are fastidious and require longer subculture intervals than wild type A. marginale. This result suggests that A. marginale, as well as possibly other species of Anaplasma and Ehrlichia, can be transformed using a strategy of homologous recombination.
doi:10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.09.018
PMCID: PMC2817780  PMID: 19837516
Bovine anaplasmosis; Anaplasma marginale; Ticks; Genetic transformation; Himar transposase; Homologous recombination
9.  Strain Composition of the Ehrlichia Anaplasma marginale within Persistently Infected Cattle, a Mammalian Reservoir for Tick Transmission 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2001;39(2):631-635.
Tick-borne ehrlichial pathogens of animals and humans require a mammalian reservoir of infection from which ticks acquire the organism for subsequent transmission. In the present study, we examined the strain structure of Anaplasma marginale, a genogroup II ehrlichial pathogen, in both an acute outbreak and in persistently infected cattle that serve as a reservoir for tick transmission. Using the msp1α genotype as a stable strain marker, only a single genotype was detected in a disease outbreak in a previously uninfected herd. In contrast, a diverse set of genotypes was detected in a persistently infected reservoir herd within a region where A. marginale is endemic. Genotypic diversity did not appear to be rapidly generated within an individual animal, because only a single genotype, identical to that of the inoculating strain, was detected at time points up to 2 years after experimental infection, and only a single identical genotype was found in repeat sampling of individual naturally infected cattle. Similarly, only a single genotype, identical to that of the experimentally inoculated St. Maries or South Idaho strain, was identified in the bloodmeal taken by Dermacentor andersoni ticks, in the midgut and salivary glands of the infected ticks, and in the blood of acutely infected cattle following tick transmission. The results show that mammalian reservoirs harbor genetically heterogeneous A. marginale and suggest that different genotypes are maintained by transmission within the reservoir population.
doi:10.1128/JCM.39.2.631-635.2001
PMCID: PMC87789  PMID: 11158120
10.  Outer Membrane Protein Sequence Variation in Lambs Experimentally Infected with Anaplasma phagocytophilum▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;76(1):120-126.
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.
doi:10.1128/IAI.01206-07
PMCID: PMC2223638  PMID: 17967854
11.  Infections and Coinfections of Questing Ixodes ricinus Ticks by Emerging Zoonotic Pathogens in Western Switzerland 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(13):4606-4612.
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.
doi:10.1128/AEM.07961-11
PMCID: PMC3370488  PMID: 22522688
12.  Prevalence and Genotypes of Anaplasma Species and Habitat Suitability for Ticks in a Mediterranean Ecosystem▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2008;74(24):7578-7584.
Anaplasma species are tick-transmitted pathogens that impact veterinary and human health. Sicily is one of the locations where these pathogens are endemic. Sicily represents a typical Mediterranean ecosystem to study Anaplasma infection and tick habitat suitability. The aims of this study were (i) to characterize by 16S rRNA and species-specific msp4 gene PCR the prevalence and genotypes of A. marginale, A. phagocytophilum, and A. ovis in the most abundant host species in Sicilian provinces and (ii) to correlate differences between hosts and between western and eastern Sicily with the habitat suitability for ticks in these regions. Differences were found in the prevalence of Anaplasma spp. between different hosts and between western and eastern provinces. The differences in Anaplasma prevalence between different hosts may be explained by pathogen host tropism. The differences between western and eastern provinces correlated with the tick habitat suitability in these regions. The analysis of Anaplasma genotypes suggested a higher host and regional specificity for A. phagocytophilum than for A. marginale and A. ovis strains, a finding probably associated with the broader host range of A. phagocytophilum. The presence of identical A. marginale genotypes in the two regions may reflect cattle movement. The results for A. ovis suggested the possibility of some genotypes being host specific. These results provide information potentially useful for the management of tick-borne diseases caused by Anaplasma spp. in Sicily and other Mediterranean regions and may contribute to the development of models to predict the risks for these tick-borne pathogens.
doi:10.1128/AEM.01625-08
PMCID: PMC2607149  PMID: 18978093
13.  Survey of selected tick-borne diseases in dogs in Finland 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7:285.
Background
Due to climate changes during the last decades, ticks have progressively spread into higher latitudes in northern Europe. Although some tick borne diseases are known to be endemic in Finland, to date there is limited information with regard to the prevalence of these infections in companion animals. We determined the antibody and DNA prevalence of the following organisms in randomly selected client-owned and clinically healthy hunting dogs living in Finland: Ehrlichia canis (Ec), Anaplasma phagocytophilum (Ap), Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) and Bartonella.
Methods
Anti-Ap, −Bb and –Ec antibodies were determined in 340 Finnish pet dogs and 50 healthy hunting dogs using the 4DX Snap®Test (IDEXX Laboratories). In addition, PCRs for the detection of Ap and Bartonella DNA were performed. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to identify risk factors associated with seropositivity to a vector borne agent.
Results
The overall seroprevalence was highest for Ap (5.3%), followed by Bb (2.9%), and Ec (0.3%). Seropositivities to Ap and Bb were significantly higher in the Åland Islands (p <0.001), with prevalence of Ap and Bb antibodies of 45 and 20%, respectively. In healthy hunting dogs, seropositivity rates of 4% (2/50) and 2% (1/50) were recorded for Ap and Bb, respectively. One client-owned dog and one hunting dog, both healthy, were infected with Ap as determined by PCR, while being seronegative. For Bartonella spp., none of the dogs tested was positive by PCR.
Conclusions
This study represents the first data of seroprevalence to tick borne diseases in the Finnish dog population. Our results indicate that dogs in Finland are exposed to vector borne diseases, with Ap being the most seroprevalent of the diseases tested, followed by Bb. Almost 50% of dogs living in Åland Islands were Ap seropositive. This finding suggests the possibility of a high incidence of Ap infection in humans in this region. Knowing the distribution of seroprevalence in dogs may help predict the pattern of a tick borne disease and may aid in diagnostic and prevention efforts.
doi:10.1186/1756-3305-7-285
PMCID: PMC4074585  PMID: 24957468
Anaplasmosis; Borreliosis; Bartonella; Dogs; Epidemiology
14.  Immunogenicity of Anaplasma marginale Type IV Secretion System Proteins in a Protective Outer Membrane Vaccine▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;75(5):2333-2342.
Rickettsial pathogens in the genera Anaplasma and Ehrlichia cause acute infection in immunologically naive hosts and are major causes of tick-borne disease in animals and humans. Immunization with purified outer membranes induces protection against acute Anaplasma marginale infection and disease, and a proteomic and genomic approach recently identified 21 proteins within the outer membrane immunogen in addition to the well-characterized major surface proteins MSP1 to MSP5. Among the newly described proteins were the type IV secretion system (TFSS) proteins VirB9, VirB10, and conjugal transfer protein (CTP). In other gram-negative bacteria, TFSS proteins form channels, facilitate secretion of molecules, and are required for intracellular survival. However, TFSS proteins have not been explored as vaccine antigens. In this study we demonstrate that in Anaplasma marginale outer membrane-vaccinated cattle, VirB9, VirB10, and CTP are recognized by serum immunoglobulin G2 (IgG2) and stimulate memory T-lymphocyte proliferation and gamma interferon secretion. VirB9 induced the greatest proliferation in CD4+ T-cell lines, and VirB9-specific CD4+ T-cell clones responded to three A. marginale strains, confirming the VirB9-specific T-cell responses are directed against epitopes in the native protein. The three TFSS proteins are highly conserved with orthologous proteins in Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, and Ehrlichia canis. Recognition of TFSS antigens by CD4+ T cells and by IgG2 from cattle immunized with the protective outer membrane fraction provides a rationale for including these proteins in development of vaccines against A. marginale and related pathogens.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00061-07
PMCID: PMC1865776  PMID: 17339347
15.  Pathogen Prevalence in Ticks Collected from the Vegetation and Livestock in Nigeria 
Ticks are important disease vectors that can cause considerable economic losses by affecting animal health and productivity, especially in tropical and subtropical regions. In this study, we investigated the prevalence and diversity of bacterial and protozoan tick-borne pathogens in ticks collected from the vegetation and cattle in Nigeria by PCR. The infection rates of questing ticks were 3.1% for Rickettsia species, 0.1% for Coxiella burnetii and 0.4% for Borrelia species. Other pathogens, such as Babesia, Theileria, Anaplasma, and Ehrlichia species, were not detected in ticks from the vegetation. Feeding ticks collected from cattle displayed infection rates of 12.5% for Rickettsia species, 14% for Coxiella burnetii, 5.9% for Anaplasma species, 5.1% for Ehrlichia species, and 2.9% for Theileria mutans. Babesia and Borrelia species were not detected in ticks collected from cattle. Mixed infections were found only in feeding ticks and mainly Rickettsia species and Coxiella burnetii were involved. The diversity of tick-borne pathogens in Nigeria was higher in feeding than in questing ticks, suggesting that cattle serve as reservoirs for at least some of the pathogens studied, in particular C. burnetii. The total estimated herd infection rates of 20.6% for a Rickettsia africae-like species, 27% for Coxiella burnetii, and 8.5% for Anaplasma marginale/centrale suggest that these pathogens may have considerable implications for human and animal health.
doi:10.1128/AEM.06686-11
PMCID: PMC3318832  PMID: 22327584
16.  Ixodes ricinus and Its Transmitted Pathogens in Urban and Peri-Urban Areas in Europe: New Hazards and Relevance for Public Health 
Tick-borne diseases represent major public and animal health issues worldwide. Ixodes ricinus, primarily associated with deciduous and mixed forests, is the principal vector of causative agents of viral, bacterial, and protozoan zoonotic diseases in Europe. Recently, abundant tick populations have been observed in European urban green areas, which are of public health relevance due to the exposure of humans and domesticated animals to potentially infected ticks. In urban habitats, small and medium-sized mammals, birds, companion animals (dogs and cats), and larger mammals (roe deer and wild boar) play a role in maintenance of tick populations and as reservoirs of tick-borne pathogens. Presence of ticks infected with tick-borne encephalitis virus and high prevalence of ticks infected with Borrelia burgdorferi s.l., causing Lyme borreliosis, have been reported from urbanized areas in Europe. Emerging pathogens, including bacteria of the order Rickettsiales (Anaplasma phagocytophilum, “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis,” Rickettsia helvetica, and R. monacensis), Borrelia miyamotoi, and protozoans (Babesia divergens, B. venatorum, and B. microti) have also been detected in urban tick populations. Understanding the ecology of ticks and their associations with hosts in a European urbanized environment is crucial to quantify parameters necessary for risk pre-assessment and identification of public health strategies for control and prevention of tick-borne diseases.
doi:10.3389/fpubh.2014.00251
PMCID: PMC4248671  PMID: 25520947
ticks; Ixodes ricinus; tick-borne pathogens; urban habitats; Europe
17.  Subolesin expression in response to pathogen infection in ticks 
BMC Immunology  2010;11:7.
Background
Ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) are vectors of pathogens worldwide that cause diseases in humans and animals. Ticks and pathogens have co-evolved molecular mechanisms that contribute to their mutual development and survival. Subolesin was discovered as a tick protective antigen and was subsequently shown to be similar in structure and function to akirins, an evolutionarily conserved group of proteins in insects and vertebrates that controls NF-kB-dependent and independent expression of innate immune response genes. The objective of this study was to investigate subolesin expression in several tick species infected with a variety of pathogens and to determine the effect of subolesin gene knockdown on pathogen infection. In the first experiment, subolesin expression was characterized in ticks experimentally infected with the cattle pathogen, Anaplasma marginale. Subolesin expression was then characterized in questing or feeding adult ticks confirmed to be infected with Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Rickettsia, Babesia or Theileria spp. Finally, the effect of subolesin knockdown by RNA interference (RNAi) on tick infection was analyzed in Dermacentor variabilis males exposed to various pathogens by capillary feeding (CF).
Results
Subolesin expression increased with pathogen infection in the salivary glands but not in the guts of tick vector species infected with A. marginale. When analyzed in whole ticks, subolesin expression varied between tick species and in response to different pathogens. As reported previously, subolesin knockdown in D. variabilis infected with A. marginale and other tick-borne pathogens resulted in lower infection levels, while infection with Francisella tularensis increased in ticks after RNAi. When non-tick-borne pathogens were fed to ticks by CF, subolesin RNAi did not affect or resulted in lower infection levels in ticks. However, subolesin expression was upregulated in D. variabilis exposed to Escherichia coli, suggesting that although this pathogen may induce subolesin expression in ticks, silencing of this molecule reduced bacterial multiplication by a presently unknown mechanism.
Conclusions
Subolesin expression in infected ticks suggested that subolesin may be functionally important for tick innate immunity to pathogens, as has been reported for the akirins. However, subolesin expression and consequently subolesin-mediated innate immunity varied with the pathogen and tick tissue. Subolesin may plays a role in tick innate immunity in the salivary glands by limiting pathogen infection levels, but activates innate immunity only for some pathogen in the guts and other tissues. In addition, these results provided additional support for the role of subolesin in other molecular pathways including those required for tissue development and function and for pathogen infection and multiplication in ticks. Consequently, RNAi experiments demonstrated that subolesin knockdown in ticks may affect pathogen infection directly by reducing tick innate immunity that results in higher infection levels and indirectly by affecting tissue structure and function and the expression of genes that interfere with pathogen infection and multiplication. The impact of the direct or indirect effects of subolesin knockdown on pathogen infection may depend on several factors including specific tick-pathogen molecular interactions, pathogen life cycle in the tick and unknown mechanisms affected by subolesin function in the control of global gene expression in ticks.
doi:10.1186/1471-2172-11-7
PMCID: PMC2836984  PMID: 20170494
18.  Temporal characterisation of the organ-specific Rhipicephalusmicroplus transcriptional response to Anaplasma marginale infection 
Graphical abstract
Highlights
► Analysis of Rhipicephalus microplus tick gene expression during feeding. ► A massive organ-specific transcriptional response to tick feeding is confirmed. ► Analysis of tick response to infection with the cattle pathogen Anaplasma marginale. ► Anaplasma marginale exerts a minimal effect on the tick transcriptome.
Arthropods transmit important infectious diseases of humans and animals. Importantly, replication and the development of pathogen infectivity are tightly linked to vector feeding on the mammalian host; thus analysis of the transcriptomes of both vector and pathogen during feeding is fundamental to understanding transmission. Using Anaplasma marginale infection of Rhipicephalusmicroplus as the experimental model, we tested three hypotheses exploring the temporal and organ-specific nature of the tick midgut and salivary gland transcriptomes during feeding and in response to infection. Numerous R. microplus genes were regulated in response to feeding and were differentially regulated between the midgut and salivary gland; additionally, there was a progression in regulated gene expression in the salivary gland over time. In contrast, relatively few tick genes were specifically regulated in response to A. marginale infection and these genes were predominantly annotated as hypothetical or were of unknown function. Notable among the genes with informative annotation was that several ribosomal proteins were down-regulated, suggesting that there may be a corresponding decrease in translation. The hypotheses that R. microplus midgut and salivary gland genes are differentially regulated and that the salivary gland transcriptome is dynamic over time were accepted. This is consistent with, and important for understanding the roles of, the two organs, the midgut serving as an initial site of uptake and replication while the salivary gland serves as the final site of replication and secretion. The nominal effect of A. marginale on the tick transcriptome in terms of numbers of regulated genes and fold of regulation supports the view that the vector–pathogen relationship is well established with minimal deleterious effect on the tick. The small set of predominantly hypothetical genes regulated by infection suggests that A. marginale is affecting a novel set of tick genes and may provide new opportunities for blocking transmission from the tick.
doi:10.1016/j.ijpara.2011.03.003
PMCID: PMC3114074  PMID: 21514300
Tick-borne disease; Ixodid; Rickettsial; Gene expression; Microarray
19.  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.
doi:10.1128/JCM.02051-10
PMCID: PMC3067700  PMID: 21177886
20.  Stochastic Transmission of Multiple Genotypically Distinct Anaplasma marginale Strains in a Herd with High Prevalence of Anaplasma Infection 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2004;42(11):5381-5384.
Multiple genotypically unique strains of the tick-borne pathogen Anaplasma marginale occur and are transmitted within regions where the organism is endemic. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that specific A. marginale strains are preferentially transmitted. The study herd of cattle (n = 261) had an infection prevalence of 29% as determined by competitive inhibition enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and PCR, with complete concordance between results of the two assays. Genotyping revealed the presence of 11 unique strains within the herd. Although the majority of the individuals (70 of 75) were infected with only a single A. marginale strain, five animals each carried two strains with markedly distinct genotypes, indicating that superinfection does occur with distinct A. marginale strains, as has been reported with A. marginale and A. marginale subsp. centrale strains. Identification of strains in animals born into and infected within the herd during the period from 1998 to 2003 revealed no significant difference from the overall strain prevalence in the herd, results that do not support the occurrence of preferential strain transmission within a population of persistently infected animals and are most consistent with pathogen strain transmission being stochastic.
doi:10.1128/JCM.42.11.5381-5384.2004
PMCID: PMC525272  PMID: 15528749
21.  Comparative genomics of first available bovine Anaplasma phagocytophilum genome obtained with targeted sequence capture 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):973.
Background
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is a zoonotic and obligate intracellular bacterium transmitted by ticks. In domestic ruminants, it is the causative agent of tick-borne fever, which causes significant economic losses in Europe. As A. phagocytophilum is difficult to isolate and cultivate, only nine genome sequences have been published to date, none of which originate from a bovine strain.
Our goals were to; 1/ develop a sequencing methodology which efficiently circumvents the difficulties associated with A. phagocytophilum isolation and culture; 2/ describe the first genome of a bovine strain; and 3/ compare it with available genomes, in order to both explore key genomic features at the species level, and to identify candidate genes that could be specific to bovine strains.
Results
DNA was extracted from a bovine blood sample infected by A. phagocytophilum. Following a whole genome capture approach, A. phagocytophilum DNA was enriched 197-fold in the sample and then sequenced using Illumina technology. In total, 58.9% of obtained reads corresponded to the A. phagocytophilum genome, covering 85.3% of the HZ genome. Then by performing comparisons with nine previously-sequenced A. phagocytophilum genomes, we determined the core genome of these ten strains. Following analysis, 1281 coding DNA sequences, including 1001 complete sequences, were detected in the A. phagocytophilum bovine genome, of which four appeared to be unique to the bovine isolate. These four coding DNA sequences coded for "hypothetical proteins of unknown function” and require further analysis. We also identified nine proteins common to both European domestic ruminants tested.
Conclusion
Using a whole genome capture approach, we have sequenced the first A. phagocytophilum genome isolated from a cow. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that this method has been used to selectively enrich pathogenic bacterial DNA from samples also containing host DNA. The four proteins unique to the A. phagocytophilum bovine genome could be involved in host tropism, therefore their functions need to be explored.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-973) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-973
PMCID: PMC4239370  PMID: 25400116
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Cattle; Comparative genomics; Granulocytic anaplasmosis; Tick-borne fever; Targeted sequence capture; Whole genome sequencing
22.  Unique strains of Anaplasma phagocytophilum segregate among diverse questing and non-questing Ixodes tick species in the western United States 
Ticks and tick-borne diseases  2013;4(6):10.1016/j.ttbdis.2013.06.003.
The emerging tick-borne pathogen Anaplasma phagocytophilum infects humans, domestic animals, and wildlife throughout the Holarctic. In the western U.S., the ecology of A. phagocytophilum is particularly complex, with multiple pathogen strains, tick vectors, and reservoir hosts. A recent phylogenetic analysis of A. phagocytophilum strains isolated from various small mammal hosts in California documented distinct clustering of woodrat strains separate from sciurid (chipmunk and squirrel) strains. Here, we identified strains of A. phagocytophilum in various Ixodes tick species in California and related these genotypes to those found among reservoir and clinical hosts from the same areas. The sequences from all of the nidicolous (nest-dwelling) Ixodes ticks grouped within a clade that also contained all of the woodrat-origin A. phagocytophilum strains. Two of the I. pacificus sequences were also grouped within this woodrat clade, while the remaining five belonged to a less genetically diverse clade that included several sciurid-origin strains as well as a dog, a horse, and a human strain. By comparing A. phagocytophilum strains from multiple sources concurrently, we were able to gain a clearer picture of how A. phagocytophilum strains in the western U.S. are partitioned, which hosts and vectors are most likely to be infected with a particular strain, and which tick species and reservoir hosts pose the greatest health risk to humans and domestic animals.
doi:10.1016/j.ttbdis.2013.06.003
PMCID: PMC3833925  PMID: 23994335
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Ixodes spp.; Nidicolous ticks; Ixodes pacificus; ank gene; Phylogeny
23.  An Antivector Vaccine Protects against a Lethal Vector-Borne Pathogen 
PLoS Pathogens  2006;2(4):e27.
Vaccines that target blood-feeding disease vectors, such as mosquitoes and ticks, have the potential to protect against the many diseases caused by vector-borne pathogens. We tested the ability of an anti-tick vaccine derived from a tick cement protein (64TRP) of Rhipicephalus appendiculatus to protect mice against tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) transmitted by infected Ixodes ricinus ticks. The vaccine has a “dual action” in immunized animals: when infested with ticks, the inflammatory and immune responses first disrupt the skin feeding site, resulting in impaired blood feeding, and then specific anti-64TRP antibodies cross-react with midgut antigenic epitopes, causing rupture of the tick midgut and death of engorged ticks. Three parameters were measured: “transmission,” number of uninfected nymphal ticks that became infected when cofeeding with an infected adult female tick; “support,” number of mice supporting virus transmission from the infected tick to cofeeding uninfected nymphs; and “survival,” number of mice that survived infection by tick bite and subsequent challenge by intraperitoneal inoculation of a lethal dose of TBEV. We show that one dose of the 64TRP vaccine protects mice against lethal challenge by infected ticks; control animals developed a fatal viral encephalitis. The protective effect of the 64TRP vaccine was comparable to that of a single dose of a commercial TBEV vaccine, while the transmission-blocking effect of 64TRP was better than that of the antiviral vaccine in reducing the number of animals supporting virus transmission. By contrast, the commercial antitick vaccine (TickGARD) that targets only the tick's midgut showed transmission-blocking activity but was not protective. The 64TRP vaccine demonstrates the potential to control vector-borne disease by interfering with pathogen transmission, apparently by mediating a local cutaneous inflammatory immune response at the tick-feeding site.
Synopsis
Blood-sucking vectors such as mosquitoes and ticks transmit hundreds of micro-organisms that cause diseases like malaria and Lyme disease. Controlling so many diseases is an enormous challenge. A new idea is to make vaccines against the vectors rather than against all the individual disease agents they carry. The authors examined this hypothesis using a vaccine prepared from tick cement. This cement is secreted by ticks to help them attach to a human or animal to feed. A mouse model was used in which mice were infested with ticks infected with tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV), the most important vector-borne virus in Europe and northern Asia. The control mice developed fatal encephalitis and died about a week after being bitten by the infected tick. By contrast, the tick cement vaccine gave protection similar to the level seen in mice immunized with a single shot of the commercial TBEV vaccine for humans. However, a commercial tick vaccine used to control cattle ticks did not protect the mice. The authors' tick cement vaccine appeared to work by causing a cellular immune response in the skin where ticks were feeding. These results show that it is feasible to produce a vaccine against a tick that protects against the disease agent it transmits.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.0020027
PMCID: PMC1424664  PMID: 16604154
24.  Serological detection of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and Ehrlichia canis antibodies and Dirofilaria immitis antigen in a countrywide survey in dogs in Poland 
Parasitology Research  2014;113(9):3229-3239.
Canine vector-borne diseases (CVBDs) have increasingly become a focus of attention in the past few years. Nevertheless, in many parts of Europe information on their occurrence is still scarce. In a large study in Poland 3,094 serum samples taken from dogs throughout all 16 Polish provinces were tested using a commercial kit for the detection of circulating antibodies against Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and Ehrlichia canis and of Dirofilaria immitis antigen. A total of 12.31 % (381/3,094; 95 % confidence interval [CI]: 11.18–13.52 %) and 3.75 % (116/3,094; 95 % CI: 3.11–4.48 %) of the dogs were positive for A. phagocytophilum and B. burgdorferi s.l. antibodies, respectively. Furthermore, 0.26 % (8/3,094; 95 % CI: 0.11–0.51 %) were positive for E. canis antibodies and 0.16 % (5/3,094; 95 % CI: 0.05–0.38 %) for D. immitis antigen. The highest percentages of A. phagocytophilum-positive dogs were noted in Lesser Poland, Silesia and Łódź Provinces. For B. burgdorferi s.l., the highest prevalence was recorded in Łódź Province. Co-infections with A. phagocytophilum and B. burgdorferi s.l. were recorded in 1.71 % of all examined dogs (53/3,094; 95 % CI: 1.29–2.23 %). One dog even had a triple infection, testing positive for E. canis too. Both A. phagocytophilum and B. burgdorferi s.l. have previously been reported in Poland and were confirmed in the present study by positive samples from all 16 provinces. Concerning E. canis and D. immitis travel history or importation cannot be excluded as factors which may have determined the occurrence of these pathogens in the relevant animals. Practitioners in Poland should be aware of the above mentioned CVBDs and of prophylactic measures to protect dogs and their owners.
doi:10.1007/s00436-014-3985-7
PMCID: PMC4143602  PMID: 24974092
Dog; Canine vector-borne diseases (CVBDs); SNAP® 4Dx®; Prevalence; Distribution; Poland
25.  Establishing a cost-effective national surveillance system for Bluetongue using scenario tree modelling 
Veterinary Research  2009;40(6):57.
Vector-borne diseases pose a special challenge to veterinary authorities due to complex and time-consuming surveillance programs taking into account vector habitat. Using stochastic scenario tree modelling, each possible surveillance activity of a future surveillance system can be evaluated with regard to its sensitivity and the expected cost. The overall sensitivity of various potential surveillance systems, composed of different combinations of surveillance activities, is calculated and the proposed surveillance system is optimized with respect to the considered surveillance activities, the sensitivity and the cost. The objective of this project was to use stochastic scenario tree modelling in combination with a simple cost analysis in order to develop the national surveillance system for Bluetongue in Switzerland. This surveillance system was established due to the emerging outbreak of Bluetongue virus serotype 8 (BTV-8) in Northern Europe in 2006. Based on the modelling results, it was decided to implement an improved passive clinical surveillance in cattle and sheep through campaigns in order to increase disease awareness alongside a targeted bulk milk testing strategy in 200 dairy cattle herds located in high-risk areas. The estimated median probability of detection of cases (i.e. sensitivity) of the surveillance system in this combined approach was 96.4%. The evaluation of the prospective national surveillance system predicted that passive clinical surveillance in cattle would provide the highest probability to detect BTV-8 infected animals, followed by passive clinical surveillance in sheep and bulk milk testing of 200 dairy cattle farms in high-risk areas. This approach is also applicable in other countries and to other epidemic diseases.
doi:10.1051/vetres/2009040
PMCID: PMC2736541  PMID: 19607784
national surveillance system; cost-effective; scenario tree modelling; Bluetongue; Switzerland

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