Anaplasmosis, a tick-borne cattle disease caused by the rickettsia Anaplasma marginale, is endemic in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. The disease causes considerable economic loss to both the dairy and beef industries worldwide. Analyses of 16S rRNA, groESL, and surface proteins have resulted in the recent reclassification of the order Rickettsiales. The genus Anaplasma, of which A. marginale is the type species, now also includes A. bovis, A. platys, and A. phagocytophilum, which were previously known as Ehrlichia bovis, E. platys, and the E. phagocytophila group (which causes human granulocytic ehrlichiosis), respectively. Live and killed vaccines have been used for control of anaplasmosis, and both types of vaccines have advantages and disadvantages. These vaccines have been effective in preventing clinical anaplasmosis in cattle but have not blocked A. marginale infection. Thus, persistently infected cattle serve as a reservoir of infective blood for both mechanical transmission and infection of ticks. Advances in biochemical, immunologic, and molecular technologies during the last decade have been applied to research of A. marginale and related organisms. The recent development of a cell culture system for A. marginale provides a potential source of antigen for the development of improved killed and live vaccines, and the availability of cell culture-derived antigen would eliminate the use of cattle in vaccine production. Increased knowledge of A. marginale antigen repertoires and an improved understanding of bovine cellular and humoral immune responses to A. marginale, combined with the new technologies, should contribute to the development of more effective vaccines for control and prevention of anaplasmosis.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the agent of human anaplasmosis, the second most common tick-borne illness in the United States. This pathogen, which is closely related to obligate intracellular organisms in the genera Rickettsia, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasma, persists in ticks and mammalian hosts; however, the mechanisms for survival in the arthropod are not known. We now show that A. phagocytophilum induces expression of the Ixodes scapularis salp16 gene in the arthropod salivary glands during vector engorgement. RNA interference–mediated silencing of salp16 gene expression interfered with the survival of A. phagocytophilum that entered ticks fed on A. phagocytophilum–infected mice. A. phagocytophilum migrated normally from A. phagocytophilum–infected mice to the gut of engorging salp16-deficient ticks, but up to 90% of the bacteria that entered the ticks were not able to successfully infect I. scapularis salivary glands. These data demonstrate the specific requirement of a pathogen for a tick salivary protein to persist within the arthropod and provide a paradigm for understanding how Rickettsia-like pathogens are maintained within vectors.
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.
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.
Bovine anaplasmosis; Anaplasma marginale; Ticks; Genetic transformation; Himar transposase; Homologous recombination
Anaplasma phagocytophilum causes human granulocytic anaplasmosis, one of the most common tick-borne diseases in North America. This unusual obligate intracellular pathogen selectively persists within polymorphonuclear leukocytes. In this study, using the yeast surrogate model we identified an A. phagocytophilum virulence protein, AptA (Anaplasma phagocytophilum toxin A), that activates mammalian Erk1/2 mitogen activated protein kinase. This activation is important for A. phagocytophilum survival within human neutrophils. AptA interacts with the intermediate filament protein vimentin, which is essential for A. phagocytophilum-induced Erk1/2 activation and infection. A. phagocytophilum infection reorganizes vimentin around the bacterial inclusion, thereby contributing to intracellular survival. These observations reveal a major role for the bacterial protein, AptA, and the host protein, vimentin, in the activation of Erk1/2 during A. phagocytophilum infection.
Bovine anaplasmosis, caused by the rickettsial tick-borne pathogen Anaplasma marginale (Rickettsiales: Anaplasmataceae), is vectored by Rhipicephalus (Boophilus)microplus in many tropical and subtropical regions of the world. A. marginale undergoes a complex developmental cycle in ticks which results in infection of salivary glands from where the pathogen is transmitted to cattle. In previous studies, we reported modification of gene expression in Dermacentor variabilis and cultured Ixodes scapularis tick cells in response to infection with A. marginale. In these studies, we extended these findings by use of a functional genomics approach to identify genes differentially expressed in R. microplus male salivary glands in response to A. marginale infection. Additionally, a R. microplus-derived cell line, BME26, was used for the first time to also study tick cell gene expression in response to A. marginale infection.
Suppression subtractive hybridization libraries were constructed from infected and uninfected ticks and used to identify genes differentially expressed in male R. microplus salivary glands infected with A. marginale. A total of 279 ESTs were identified as candidate differentially expressed genes. Of these, five genes encoding for putative histamine-binding protein (22Hbp), von Willebrand factor (94Will), flagelliform silk protein (100Silk), Kunitz-like protease inhibitor precursor (108Kunz) and proline-rich protein BstNI subfamily 3 precursor (7BstNI3) were confirmed by real-time RT-PCR to be down-regulated in tick salivary glands infected with A. marginale. The impact of selected tick genes on A. marginale infections in tick salivary glands and BME26 cells was characterized by RNA interference. Silencing of the gene encoding for putative flagelliform silk protein (100Silk) resulted in reduced A. marginale infection in both tick salivary glands and cultured BME26 cells, while silencing of the gene encoding for subolesin (4D8) significantly reduced infection only in cultured BME26 cells. The knockdown of the gene encoding for putative metallothionein (93 Meth), significantly up-regulated in infected cultured BME26 cells, resulted in higher A. marginale infection levels in tick cells.
Characterization of differential gene expression in salivary glands of R. microplus in response to A. marginale infection expands our understanding of the molecular mechanisms at the tick-pathogen interface. Functional studies suggested that differentially expressed genes encoding for subolesin, putative von Willebrand factor and flagelliform silk protein could play a role in A. marginale infection and multiplication in ticks. These tick genes found to be functionally relevant for tick-pathogen interactions will likely be candidates for development of vaccines designed for control of both ticks and tick-borne pathogens.
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.
Mast cells are sentinels for infection. Upon exposure to pathogens, they release their stores of proinflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and histamine. Mast cells are also important for the control of certain tick-borne infections. Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an obligate intracellular tick-transmitted bacterium that infects neutrophils to cause the emerging disease granulocytic anaplasmosis. A. phagocytophilum adhesion to and infection of neutrophils depend on sialylated and α1,3-fucosylated glycans. We investigated the hypotheses that A. phagocytophilum invades mast cells and inhibits mast cell activation. We demonstrate that A. phagocytophilum binds and/or infects murine bone marrow-derived mast cells (BMMCs), murine peritoneal mast cells, and human skin-derived mast cells. A. phagocytophilum infection of BMMCs depends on α1,3-fucosylated, but not sialylated, glycans. A. phagocytophilum binding to and invasion of BMMCs do not elicit proinflammatory cytokine secretion. Moreover, A. phagocytophilum-infected cells are inhibited in the release of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-13, and histamine following stimulation with IgE or antigen. Thus, A. phagocytophilum mitigates mast cell activation. These findings potentially represent a novel means by which A. phagocytophilum usurps host defense mechanisms and shed light on the interplay between mast cells and vector-borne bacterial pathogens.
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.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is a tick-borne rickettsial pathogen that provokes an acute inflammatory response during mammalian infection. The illness caused by A. phagocytophilum, human granulocytic anaplasmosis, occurs irrespective of pathogen load and results instead from host-derived immunopathology. Thus, characterizing A. phagocytophilum genes that affect the inflammatory process is critical for understanding disease etiology. By using an A. phagocytophilum Himar1 transposon mutant library, we showed that a single transposon insertion into the A. phagocytophilum dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase 1 gene (lpda1 [APH_0065]) affects inflammation during infection. A. phagocytophilum lacking lpda1 revealed enlargement of the spleen, increased splenic extramedullary hematopoiesis, and altered clinicopathological abnormalities during mammalian colonization. Furthermore, LPDA1-derived immunopathology was independent of neutrophil infection and correlated with enhanced reactive oxygen species from NADPH oxidase and nuclear factor (NF)-κB signaling in macrophages. Taken together, these findings suggest the presence of different signaling pathways in neutrophils and macrophages during A. phagocytophilum invasion and highlight the importance of LPDA1 as an immunopathological molecule.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii are emerging tick-borne pathogens and are the causative agents of human granulocytic anaplasmosis, human monocytic ehrlichiosis and E. ewingii ehrlichiosis, respectively. Collectively, these are referred to as human ehrlichioses. These obligate intracellular bacterial pathogens of the family Anaplasmataceae are transmitted by Ixodes spp. or Amblyomma americanum ticks and infect peripherally circulating leukocytes to cause infections that range in clinical spectra from asymptomatic seroconversion to mild, severe or, in rare instances, fatal disease. This review describes: the ecology of each pathogen; the epidemiology, clinical signs and symptoms of the human diseases that each causes; the choice methods for diagnosing and treating human ehrlichioses; recommendations for patient management; and is concluded with suggestions for potential future research.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; anaplasmosis; diagnosis; Ehrlichia chaffeensis; Ehrlichia ewingii; human ehrlichiosis; human granulocytic anaplasmosis; human monocytic ehrlichiosis; treatment
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.
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.
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.
Worldwide, ticks are important vectors of human and animal pathogens. Besides Lyme Borreliosis, a variety of other bacterial and protozoal tick-borne infections are of medical interest in Europe. In this study, 553 questing and feeding Ixodes ricinus (n = 327) and Dermacentor reticulatus ticks (n = 226) were analysed by PCR for Borrelia, Rickettsia, Anaplasma, Coxiella, Francisella and Babesia species. Overall, the pathogen prevalence in ticks was 30.6% for I. ricinus and 45.6% for D. reticulatus. The majority of infections were caused by members of the spotted-fever group rickettsiae (24.4%), 9.4% of ticks were positive for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, with Borrelia afzelii being the most frequently detected species (40.4%). Pathogens with low prevalence rates in ticks were Anaplasma phagocytophilum (2.2%), Coxiella burnetii (0.9%), Francisella tularensis subspecies (0.7%), Bartonella henselae (0.7%), Babesia microti (0.5%) and Babesia venatorum (0.4%). On a regional level, hotspots of pathogens were identified for A. phagocytophilum (12.5–17.2%), F. tularensis ssp. (5.5%) and C. burnetii (9.1%), suggesting established zoonotic cycles of these pathogens at least at these sites. Our survey revealed a high burden of tick-borne pathogens in questing and feeding I. ricinus and D. reticulatus ticks collected in different regions in Belarus, indicating a potential risk for humans and animals. Identified hotspots of infected ticks should be included in future surveillance studies, especially when F. tularensis ssp. and C. burnetii are involved.
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.
Infectious diseases caused by pathogens transmitted by ticks and other insect vectors are an important cause of morbidity and mortality in both dogs and humans throughout North America. The purpose of this study was to determine the seroprevalence of selected vector-transmitted pathogens in southern Ontario and Quebec. Samples submitted to the Vector Borne Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (VBDDL) at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine were evaluated for antibodies to Ehrlichia canis, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia canis, Bartonella henselae, Borrelia burgdorferi, Bartonella vinsonii subspecies berkhoffii, and Rickettsia rickettsii. Information regarding breed and the city or province from which the sample originated was recorded; however, travel history was unknown for the majority of dogs. Overall seroprevalence to these tick-borne pathogens in southern Ontario and Quebec is low compared with most regions of the United States, suggesting that veterinarians in this region of Canada should pursue diagnostic evidence of infection in dogs with a travel history or prior residence in areas endemic for exposure to tick-borne infections.
The genus Anaplasma (Rickettsiales: Anaplasmataceae) includes obligate tick-transmitted intracellular organisms, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Anaplasma marginale that multiply in both vertebrate and tick host cells. Recently, we showed that A. marginale affects the expression of tick genes that are involved in tick survival and pathogen infection and multiplication. However, the gene expression profile in A. phagocytophilum-infected tick cells is currently poorly characterized. The objectives of this study were to characterize tick gene expression profile in Ixodes scapularis ticks and cultured ISE6 cells in response to infection with A. phagocypthilum and to compare tick gene expression responses in A. phagocytophilum- and A. marginale-infected tick cells by microarray and real-time RT-PCR analyses. The results of these studies demonstrated modulation of tick gene expression by A. phagocytophilum and provided evidence of different gene expression responses in tick cells infected with A. phagocytophilum and A. marginale. These differences in Anaplasma-tick interactions may reflect differences in pathogen life cycle in the tick cells.
Concurrent infections with vector-borne pathogens affected a cattle herd in Switzerland, and one of the pathogens was identified as Babesia bigemina, which had never been observed in this country before. Therefore, a survey of the occurrence of ruminant Babesia spp. and their tick vectors in Switzerland was conducted. A total of 2,017 ticks were collected from sheep, goats, cattle, and wild ruminants (deer, roe deer, and chamois) in southern parts of Switzerland and identified morphologically. The vast majority of the ticks (99.2%) were Ixodes ricinus, but 14 ticks from sheep and goats were identified as Dermacentor marginatus and two ticks from wild ruminants were identified as Hemaphysalis punctata. PCR analyses of 700 ticks revealed the presence of Babesia divergens (n = 6), Babesia sp. genotype EU1 (n = 14), and B. major (n = 2), whose suggested occurrence was confirmed in this study by molecular analysis, and the presence of novel Babesia sp. genotype CH1 (n = 4), which is closely related to B. odocoilei and to Babesia sp. genotype RD61 reported from North America. The identification of B. divergens and B. major in ticks collected from wild ruminants cast doubt on the postulated strict host specificity of these bovine Babesia species. Furthermore, the zoonotic Babesia sp. genotype EU1 was detected in ticks collected from domestic animals but was obtained predominantly from ticks collected from wild ruminants. More than one tick containing DNA of different Babesia spp. were collected from two red deer. Hence, the role of these game animals as reservoir hosts of Babesia spp. seems to be important but requires further investigation.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum causes granulocytic anaplasmosis, an acute disease in humans that is also often subclinical. However, 36% are hospitalized, 7% need intensive care, and the case fatality rate is 0.6%. The biological basis for severe disease is not understood. Despite A. phagocytophilum’s mechanisms to subvert neutrophil antimicrobial responses, whether these mechanisms lead to disease is unclear. In animals, inflammatory lesions track with IFNγ and IL-10 expression, and infection of Ifng −/− mice leads to increased pathogen load but inhibition of inflammation. Suppression of STAT signaling in horses impacts IL-10 and IFN-γ expression, and also suppresses disease severity. Similar inhibition of inflammation with infection of NKT-deficient mice suggests that innate immune responses are key for disease. With severe disease, tissues can demonstrate hemophagocytosis, and measures of macrophage activation/hemophagocytic syndromes (MAS/HPS) support the concept of HGA as an immunopathologic disease. MAS/HPS are related to defective cytotoxic lymphocytes that ordinarily diminish inflammation. Pilot studies in mice show cytotoxic lymphocyte activation with A. phagocytophilum infection, yet suppression of cytotoxic responses from both NKT and CD8 cells, consistent with the development of MAS/HPS. Whether severity relates to microbial factors or genetically-determined diversity in human immune and inflammatory response needs more investigation.
Anaplasma; rickettsia; immunopathology; hemophagocytic syndrome; macrophage activation syndrome; cytotoxic lymphocyte
Protozoa and bacteria transmitted by arthropods, including ticks and phlebotomine sand flies, may cause a wide range of canine vector-borne diseases. Dogs can be simultaneously or sequentially infected with multiple pathogens. Canine babesiosis caused by Babesia canis canis and Babesia canis vogeli is known to occur in Portugal. This study assessed, by means of blood smear examination, PCR and DNA nucleotide sequencing, the presence of Babesia spp. and co-infecting agents Leishmania, Anaplasma/Ehrlichia and Hepatozoon in 45 dogs from northern Portugal clinically suspected of babesiosis.
Forty-four dogs (98%) had infection with B. canis canis and one with B. canis vogeli. Co-infections were detected in nine animals (20%). Eight dogs were found infected with two vector-borne agents: six with B. canis canis and Leishmania infantum; one with B. canis canis and Ehrlichia canis; and one with B. canis canis and Hepatozoon canis. Another dog was infected with three vector-borne pathogens: B. canis vogeli, E. canis and L. infantum. Overall, L. infantum was found in seven (16%), E. canis in two (4%), and H. canis in one (2%) out of the 45 dogs with babesiosis. Almost 90% of the 45 cases of canine babesiosis were diagnosed in the colder months of October (18%), November (27%), December (20%), February (13%) and March (9%). Co-infections were detected in February, March, April, May, October and November. Twenty-two (50%) out of 44 dogs infected with B. canis were found infested by ticks including Dermacentor spp., Ixodes spp. and Rhipicephalus sanguineus. Mortality (9%) included two co-infected dogs that died spontaneously and two with single infections that were euthanized.
Babesia canis canis is the main etiological agent of canine babesiosis in northern Portugal. A higher sensitivity of Babesia spp. detection was obtained with PCR assays, compared to the observation of blood smears. Twenty percent of the dogs were co-infected with L. infantum, E. canis or H. canis. Furthermore, this is the first molecular identification of H. canis in dogs from northern Portugal.
In Europe, ixodid ticks are important arthropod vectors of human and animal pathogens, but comprehensive studies of the prevalence of all relevant pathogens in Central Europe are scarce. As a result of ecological changes, the incidences of tick-borne infections are expected to increase. In this study, 1,394 nymphal and adult Ixodes ricinus ticks sampled monthly during the active season from 33 ecologically distinct collection sites throughout Luxembourg were screened for all human tick-borne pathogens relevant in Central Europe. Species were identified by sequence analysis of detection PCR amplicons. Mean infection rates of ticks were 11.3% for Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, 5.1% for Rickettsia sp., 2.7% for Babesia sp., and 1.9% for Anaplasma phagocytophilum. No tick was found to be infected with Coxiella sp., Francisella tularensis subsp., or Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV). A total of 3.2% of ticks were infected with more than one pathogen species, including mixed Borrelia infections (1.5%). Seasonal variations of tick infection rates were observed for Borrelia, Babesia, and Anaplasma, possibly reflecting a behavioral adaptation strategy of questing ticks. A positive correlation between the grade of urbanization and Borrelia infection rate of ticks was observed, suggesting an established urban zoonotic cycle. We also found Hepatozoon canis (0.1%) and Bartonella henselae (0.3%), which so far have not been found in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks in Central Europe.