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1.  Development and Application of a Universal Hemoplasma Screening Assay Based on the SYBR Green PCR Principle▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2009;47(12):4049-4054.
Hemotropic mycoplasmas (hemoplasmas) are the causative agents of infectious anemia in several mammalian species. Their zoonotic potential has recently been substantiated by the identification of a feline hemoplasma isolate in an immunocompromised human patient. Although species-specific diagnostic molecular methods have been developed, their application as screening tools is limited due to the species diversity of hemoplasmas. The goals of this study were to develop a universal hemoplasma screening assay with broad specificity based on the SYBR green PCR principle, to compare the assay with hemoplasma-specific TaqMan PCR, and to analyze potential tick vectors and human blood samples to address the zoonotic potential. The newly developed PCR assay based on the 16S rRNA gene amplified feline, canine, bovine, porcine, camelid, and murine hemoplasmas, as well as Mycoplasma penetrans and Mycoplasma pneumoniae. The lower detection limit for feline and canine hemoplasmas was 1 to 10 copies/PCR. The assay exhibited 98.2% diagnostic sensitivity and 92.1% diagnostic specificity for feline hemoplasmas. All 1,950 Ixodes ticks were PCR negative, suggesting that Ixodes ticks are not relevant vectors for the above-mentioned hemoplasma species in Switzerland. None of the 414 blood samples derived from anemic or immunocompromised human patients revealed a clear positive result. The SYBR green PCR assay described here is a suitable tool to screen for known and so-far-undiscovered hemoplasma species. Positive results should be confirmed by specific TaqMan PCR or sequencing.
doi:10.1128/JCM.01478-09
PMCID: PMC2786680  PMID: 19828748
2.  Molecular Investigations of Rickettsia helvetica Infection in Dogs, Foxes, Humans, and Ixodes Ticks▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2009;75(10):3230-3237.
Rickettsia helvetica, a tick-borne member of the spotted-fever-group rickettsiae, is a suspected pathogen in humans; however, its role in animals is unknown. The aims of this study were to establish a R. helvetica-specific real-time TaqMan PCR assay and apply it to the analysis of tick vectors (to determine potential exposure risk) and blood samples from Canidae and humans (to determine prevalence of infection). The newly designed 23S rRNA gene assay for R. helvetica was more sensitive than a published citrate synthase gene (gltA) assay for several rickettsiae. Blood samples from 884 dogs, 58 foxes, and 214 human patients and 2,073 ticks (Ixodes spp.) collected from either vegetation or animals were analyzed. Although the maximal likelihood estimate of prevalence was 12% in unfed ticks and 36% in ticks collected from animals, none of the 1,156 blood samples tested PCR positive. Ticks from cats were more frequently PCR positive than ticks from dogs. Sequencing of the 23S rRNA and/or the gltA gene of 17 tick pools confirmed the presence of R. helvetica. Additionally, Rickettsia monacensis, which has not been previously found in Switzerland, was identified. In conclusion, R. helvetica was frequently detected in the tick population but not in blood samples. Nevertheless, due to the broad host range of Ixodes ticks and the high rate of infestation with this agent (i.e., R. helvetica was 13 times more frequent in unfed ticks than the tick-borne encephalitis virus), many mammals may be exposed to R. helvetica. The PCR assay described here represents an important tool for studying this topic.
doi:10.1128/AEM.00220-09
PMCID: PMC2681666  PMID: 19329665

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