Reports on Sarcocystis-infection of cattle are outdated or lacking in many European countries, including those in the Central-Eastern part of the continent. Therefore, to assess the prevalence of Sarcocystis spp. among bovids in Hungary, a countrywide survey was initiated. In addition, fulminant deaths of four cattle, that showed clinical signs and post mortem lesions resembling acute sarcocystiosis (“Dalmeny disease”), were investigated.
During the countrywide survey individual heart and oesophagus samples were collected at slaughterhouses from 151 beef cattle and from 15 buffalo, kept in 31 places of Hungary. Analysis for Sarcocystis spp. was carried out with conventional PCRs for the 18S rDNA gene and gel electrophoresis, followed by sequencing of 36 strongly positive samples. Mortality cases were evaluated by histological, molecular, bacteriological and virological analyses of samples from various organs.
Among slaughtered cattle the rate of Sarcocystis-infection was 66%. S. cruzi was identified as the most prevalent species in aurochs-like breed, and the zoonotic S. hominis in Hungarian grey cattle. Concerning the sudden deaths of cattle, Sarcocystis-infection could not be demonstrated in organs showing haemorrhages, but S. cruzi cysts were present in the muscles. In one case “S. sinensis” was molecularly identified in the blood (indicating sarcocystaemia). Results of analyses for bacterial/viral pathogens were negative.
S. cruzi appears to be the most prevalent Sarcocystis sp. in cattle in Hungary, followed by the zoonotic S. hominis. However, the rate of infection with both species was shown to differ between cattle breeds. The suspected role of Sarcocystis spp. as causative agents of the fatal cases could not be confirmed.
Cattle; Buffalo; Sarcocystis; Zoonosis; Dalmeny disease
To date, only one report of a small Babesia infection based on microscopic observation which caused babesiosis in two dogs in Hungary has been published. Babesiosis due to Babesia canis - which is endemic in the local dogs - has only been detected in captive grey wolves. No information is available on babesial/theilerial infections in red foxes in Hungary. The aim of the study was to screen red foxes in Hungary for babesial parasites by PCR and to compare their partial 18S rRNA gene sequences to those parasites of domestic dogs and wild canids from other countries.
Blood samples of 404 red foxes originating from 316 locations representing all 19 Hungarian counties were screened in Hungary for babesial parasites by PCR and the partial 18S rRNA gene sequences were compared to those parasites of domestic dogs and wild canids from other countries.
Altogether 81 red foxes out of 404 (20.0%; 95% CI: 16.4–24.2%) shot in 74 locations and in 17 of the 19 Hungarian counties were found to be infected with Babesia cf. microti by PCR.
This is the first report to demonstrate the occurrence of Babesia cf. microti in Hungary, and its widespread presence in the fox population throughout the country. Further studies are needed to identify the tick species involved in its transmission, and whether other mechanisms of transmission are involved in its spread in fox populations.
Red fox; Vulpes vulpes; Theileria annae; Babesia cf. microti; Hungary
Recently a new hard tick species, Ixodes ariadnae has been discovered, adding to the two known ixodid tick species (I. vespertilionis and I. simplex) of bats in Europe.
Scanning electron microscopic comparison of adult females of these species shows morphological differences concerning the palps, the scutum, the Haller’s organ, the coxae, as well as the arrangement and fine structure of setae. Molecular analysis of 10 geographically different isolates revealed 90-95% sequence homology in the 12S and 16S rDNA genes of bat tick species. Based on 12S rDNA sequences, genotypes of I. ariadnae clustered closest to I. simplex, whereas according to their 16S rDNA gene they were closest to I. vespertilionis. The subolesin gene of I. ariadnae had only 91% sequence homology with that of I. ricinus, and is the longest known among hard tick species.
The present study illustrates the morphology and clarifies the phylogenetic relationships of the three known bat tick species that occur in Europe. According to its subolesin gene I. ariadnae may have a long evolutionary history.
Ixodes; Tick; Bat; 12S rDNA; 16S rDNA; Subolesin
Despite their close association with human dwellings, the role of synanthropic rodents in the epidemiology of vector-borne infections is seldom studied. The aim of the present study was to compensate for this lack of information, by the molecular investigation of vector-borne bacteria in peridomestic rodents and their ectoparasites.
Fifty-two rodents (mainly house mice and brown rats) were caught alive in buildings and checked for blood-sucking ectoparasites; followed by molecular analysis of these, together with spleen samples, for the presence of vector-borne agents. Haemoplasma infection was significantly more prevalent among brown rats, than among house mice. A novel haemoplasma genotype (with only 92-93% similarity to Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis and M. coccoides in its 16S rRNA gene) was detected in a harvest mouse and a brown rat. Sporadic occurrence of Rickettsia helvetica, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. and Bartonella sp. was also noted in rodents and/or their ectoparasites.
These results indicate that synanthropic rodents, although with low prevalence, may carry zoonotic and vector-borne pathogens indoors.
Mouse; Rat; Rickettsia; Anaplasma; Borrelia; Bartonella; Haemoplasma
Coxiella burnetii, the etiologic agent of Q fever, is a highly infectious zoonotic bacterium. Genetic information about the strains of this worldwide distributed agent circulating on the African continent is limited. The aim of the present study was the genetic characterization of C. burnetii DNA samples detected in ticks collected from Ethiopian cattle and their comparison with other genotypes found previously in other parts of the world.
A total of 296 tick samples were screened by real-time PCR targeting the IS1111 region of C. burnetii genome and from the 32 positive samples, 8 cases with sufficient C. burnetii DNA load (Amblyomma cohaerens, n = 6; A. variegatum, n = 2) were characterized by multispacer sequence typing (MST) and multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA). One novel sequence type (ST), the proposed ST52, was identified by MST. The MLVA-6 discriminated the proposed ST52 into two newly identified MLVA genotypes: type 24 or AH was detected in both Amblyomma species while type 26 or AI was found only in A. cohaerens.
Both the MST and MLVA genotypes of the present work are closely related to previously described genotypes found primarily in cattle samples from different parts of the globe. This finding is congruent with the source hosts of the analyzed Ethiopian ticks, as these were also collected from cattle. The present study provides genotype information of C. burnetii from this seldom studied East-African region as well as further evidence for the presumed host-specific adaptation of this agent.
The majority of vector-borne infections occur in the tropics, including Africa, but molecular eco-epidemiological studies are seldom reported from these regions. In particular, most previously published data on ticks in Ethiopia focus on species distribution, and only a few molecular studies on the occurrence of tick-borne pathogens or on ecological factors influencing these. The present study was undertaken to evaluate, if ticks collected from cattle in different Ethiopian biotopes harbour (had access to) different pathogens.
In South-Western Ethiopia 1032 hard ticks were removed from cattle grazing in three kinds of tick biotopes. DNA was individually extracted from one specimen of both sexes of each tick species per cattle. These samples were molecularly analysed for the presence of tick-borne pathogens.
Amblyomma variegatum was significantly more abundant on mid highland, than on moist highland. Rhipicephalus decoloratus was absent from savannah lowland, where virtually only A. cohaerens was found. In the ticks Coxiella burnetii had the highest prevalence on savannah lowland. PCR positivity to Theileria spp. did not appear to depend on the biotope, but some genotypes were unique to certain tick species. Significantly more A. variegatum specimens were rickettsia-positive, than those of other tick species. The presence of rickettsiae (R. africae) appeared to be associated with mid highland in case of A. variegatum and A. cohaerens. The low level of haemoplasma positivity seemed to be equally distributed among the tick species, but was restricted to one biotope type.
The tick biotope, in which cattle are grazed, will influence not only the tick burden of these hosts, but also the spectrum of pathogens in their ticks. Thus, the presence of pathogens with alternative (non-tick-borne) transmission routes, with transstadial or with transovarial transmission by ticks appeared to be associated with the biotope type, with the tick species, or both, respectively.
The prevalence of bovine babesiosis caused by Babesia divergens has been declining during the past decades in northeastern Hungary, and no cases have been observed since 2008. Infections of cattle with B. major and Theileria buffeli were hitherto reported in southern and western Europe. In other parts of the globe, there is evidence of emergence and a growing clinical importance of T. buffeli and closely related genotypes of the T. orientalis complex.
In a herd of 88 beef cattle kept in northeastern Hungary, bovine piroplasmosis was diagnosed in nine animals through the examination of blood smears or by molecular methods. B. major was identified in five animals, two of which died. In addition, four cattle harboured T. buffeli, and one of these animals was anaemic. Despite their presence, a contributory role of Anaplasma marginale and A. phagocytophilum could not be established in the disease cases.
In this study B. major and bovine theileriosis is reported for the first time in central-eastern Europe, where clinical cases were associated with a mild winter.
Cattle; Babesiosis; Theileriosis; Anaplasma marginale; Anaplasma ovis; A. phagocytophilum
Recently, Hepatozoon canis infection has been detected among shepherd, hunting and stray dogs in the southern part of Hungary, which is considered to be free of Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu lato and close to the border with Croatia. The aim of this study was to acquire information on the possibility that red foxes and/or golden jackals could play a role in the appearance and spread of H. canis in Hungary.
A conventional PCR was used to amplify a 666 bp long fragment of the Hepatozoon 18S rRNA gene from blood samples collected from 334 foxes shot in 231 locations in 16 counties and 15 golden jackals shot in 9 locations in two southwestern counties close to Croatia. A second PCR assay was performed in some of the samples positive by the first PCR to amplify a larger segment (approximately 1500 bp) of the 18S rRNA gene of Hepatozoon spp. for further phylogenetic analysis.
Hepatozoon infection was detected in canids shot in 30 locations and 9 counties. Altogether 26 foxes (8.0%, 95% CI: 5-11%) and 9 jackals (60%, 95% CI: 33-81%) were PCR positive. Hepatozoon canis sequences were obtained from 12 foxes and 7 jackals. DNA sequences from 16 animals were 99-100% similar to H. canis from Croatian foxes or dogs while two of the sequences were 99% similar to an Italian fox. Half (13/26) of the infected red foxes and all golden jackals were shot in the two southwestern counties.
This is the first report on molecular evidence of H. canis in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and golden jackals (Canis aureus) from Hungary, which is considered free from the tick vector of H. canis, R. sanguineus. Although no R. sanguineus sensu lato had been found on infected or non-infected wild canids, the detection of authochnous canine hepatozoonosis in Hungary might imply that the range of R. sanguineus sensu lato has reached this country.
Fox; Golden jackal; Hepatozoon canis; Hungary
In Europe two ixodid bat tick species, Ixodes vespertilionis and I. simplex were hitherto known to occur.
Bat ticks were collected from cave walls and bats in Hungary. Their morphology and genotypes were compared with microscopy and conventional PCR (followed by sequencing), respectively.
A year-round activity of I. vespertilionis was observed. Molecular analysis of the cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) gene of twenty ticks from different caves showed that the occurrence of the most common genotype was associated with the caves close to each other. A few specimens of a morphologically different tick variant were also found and their COI analysis revealed only 86-88% sequence homology with I. simplex and I. vespertilionis, respectively.
The microenvironment of caves (well separated from each other) appears to support the existence of allopatric I. vespertilionis COI genotypes, most likely related to the distance between caves and to bat migration over-bridging certain caves. The name I. ariadnae sp. nov. is given to the new tick species described here for the first time.
Ixodes; Tick; Cave; Bat; Genotype
Birds have long been known as carriers of ticks, but data from the literature are lacking on their role as a reservoir in the epidemiology of certain tick-borne disease-causing agents. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the presence of three emerging, zoonotic tick-borne pathogens in blood samples and ticks of birds and to assess the impact of feeding location preference and migration distance of bird species on their tick infestation.
Blood samples and ticks of birds were analysed with TaqMan real-time PCRs and conventional PCR followed by sequencing.
During the spring and autumn bird migrations, 128 blood samples and 140 ticks (Ixodes ricinus, Haemaphysalis concinna and a Hyalomma specimen) were collected from birds belonging to 16 species. The prevalence of tick infestation and the presence of tick species were related to the feeding and migration habits of avian hosts. Birds were shown to be bacteraemic with Rickettsia helvetica and Anaplasma phagocytophilum, but not with Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis. The prevalence of rickettsiae was high (51.4%) in ticks, suggesting that some of them may have acquired their infection from their avian host.
Based on the present results birds are potential reservoirs of both I. ricinus transmitted zoonotic pathogens, R. helvetica and A. phagocytophilum, but their epidemiological role appears to be less important concerning the latter, at least in Central Europe.
Ground feeding birds; Migratory birds; Ticks; Rickettsia helvetica; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis
Several new taxa belonging to the genus Francisella have been described recently. The present study describes the prevalence of Francisella tularensis and Francisella-like endosymbionts (FLE) in ticks collected from Hungary from 2007 to 2009 and characterizes the genetic variability of FLEs. A total of 5402 Ixodid ticks (Ixodes ricinus, I. acuminatus, Dermacentor marginatus, D. reticulatus, Haemaphysalis inermis, H. concinna, H. punctata) were collected from vegetation and animal hosts and tested with conventional PCR, detecting the 16S rRNA and tul4 genes. F. tularensis ssp. holarctica was found in 2 pools of H. concinna and 1 pool of D. reticulatus, both representing minimum prevalence (calculated with 1 infected tick per pool) of 0.27% whereas the sequences of a FLE were detected in 11 pools of D. reticulatus showing a minimum prevalence of 3%. Although the tul4 gene sequence of this FLE was identical to all Hungarian and Portuguese FLEs found earlier, and the 16S rRNA sequence was also identical to the sequence of the endosymbiont of D. reticulatus described in Bulgaria, these 16S rRNA gene coding sequences differed in 2 nucleotides from the one found earlier in this tick species in Hungary. This divergence may appear to be a minor difference between the sequences, potentially even resulting from a technical failure, but it could also indicate a significant difference stemming from the conservative genetic character of Francisellaceae. Thus, it raises a question about the number of FLE variants circulating in D. reticulatus in Europe and indicates the need for further data about the FLEs described in other parts of the continent and new FLE genotyping markers.
Francisella-like endosymbiont; Francisella tularensis; Tick; Zoonosis
Besnoitia besnoiti, the cause of bovine besnoitiosis, is a cyst-forming coccidian parasite that has recently been shown to be spreading in several Western and Southern European countries.
Clinical cases of bovine besnoitiosis were confirmed for the first time in Hungary, by histological, serological and PCR analyses.
This is the first report of autochthonous bovine besnoitiosis in Central-Eastern Europe. The emergence of bovine besnoitiosis in this region represents a further example, when human activity (i.e. cattle trading) is the main factor involved in the geographical spread of an infectious disease.
Besnoitia besnoiti; Cattle; Mechanical vector; Vector-borne; Emerging disease
Altogether 2004 Ixodes ricinus ticks, from 37 places in Hungary, were analysed in pools with a recently developed multiplex real-time PCR for the presence of Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis and for other representatives of the genus. Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis was identified in nine sampling sites, indicating three separated endemic regions along the borders of Hungary. In addition, results of samples from seven places (except for the western part of the country) were positive in the genus-specific (Ca. Neoehrlichia sp.) PCR, but were negative for Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis.
Tick-borne diseases; Zoonosis; Epidemiology
South Hungary is being monitored for the northward spreading of thermophilic ixodid species, therefore ticks were collected from cattle and wild ruminants (red, fallow and roe deer) in the autumn of 2011.
Besides indigenous species (1185 Dermacentor reticulatus and 976 Ixodes ricinus), two Hyalomma marginatum rufipes males were found on two cows, in September eight days apart.
This is the northernmost autochthonous infestation of the type host (cattle) with H. m. rufipes, vector of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus. The present findings are suggestive of the moulting success of this Afro-Mediterranean tick species in a continental climate in Central Europe.
Hyalomma marginatum rufipes; Cattle; Continental climate; Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever
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.