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Knap, Nataša (3)
Avšič-Županc, Tatjana (2)
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Durmiši, Emina (1)
Fajs, Luka (1)
Munderloh, Ulrike Gertrud (1)
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Smrdel, Katja Strašek (1)
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Yu, Xue-jie (1)
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Correlation of TBE Incidence with Red Deer and Roe Deer Abundance in Slovenia
Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a virus infection which sometimes causes human disease. The TBE virus is found in ticks and certain vertebrate tick hosts in restricted endemic localities termed TBE foci. The formation of natural foci is a combination of several factors: the vectors, a suitable and numerous enough number of hosts and in a habitat with suitable vegetation and climate. The present study investigated the influence of deer on the incidence of tick-borne encephalitis. We were able to obtain data from deer culls. Using this data, the abundance of deer was estimated and temporal and spatial analysis was performed. The abundance of deer has increased in the past decades, as well as the incidence of tick-borne encephalitis. Temporal analysis confirmed a correlation between red deer abundance and tick-borne encephalitis occurrence. Additionally, spatial analysis established, that in areas with high incidence of tick-borne encephalitis red deer density is higher, compared to areas with no or few human cases of tick-borne encephalitis. However, such correlation could not be confirmed between roe deer density and the incidence of tick-borne encephalitis. This is presumably due to roe deer density being above a certain threshold so that availability of tick reproduction hosts has no apparent effect on ticks' host finding and consequently may not be possible to correlate with incidence of human TBE.
Phylogeographic Characterization of Tick-Borne Encephalitis Virus from Patients, Rodents and Ticks in Slovenia
Munderloh, Ulrike Gertrud
Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) is the most important arboviral agent causing infections of the central nervous system in central Europe. Previous studies have shown that TBEV exhibits pronounced genetic variability, which is often correlated to the geographical origin of TBEV. Genetic variability of TBEV has previously been studied predominantly in rodents and ticks, while information about the variability in patients is scarce. In order to understand the molecular relationships of TBEV between natural hosts, vectors and humans, as well as correlation between phylogenetic and geographical clustering, sequences of TBEV E and NS5 protein genes, were obtained by direct sequencing of RT-PCR products from TBE-confirmed patients as well as from rodents and ticks collected from TBE-endemic regions in Slovenia. A total of 27 partial E protein gene sequences representing 15 human, 4 rodent and 8 tick samples and 30 partial NS5 protein gene sequences representing 17 human, 5 rodent and 8 tick samples were obtained. The complete genome sequence of TBEV strain Ljubljana I was simultaneously obtained. Phylogenetic analysis of the E and NS5 protein gene sequences revealed a high degree of TBEV variability in patients, ticks and rodents. Furthermore, an evident correlation between geographical and phylogenetic clustering was shown that was independent of the TBEV host. Moreover, we show the presence of a possible recombination event in the TBEV genome obtained from a patient sample, which was supported with multiple recombination event detection methods. This is the first study that simultaneously analyzed the genetic relationships of directly sequenced TBEV samples from patients, ticks and rodents and provides the largest set of patient-derived TBEV sequences up to date. In addition, we have confirmed the geographical clustering of TBEV sequences in Slovenia and have provided evidence of a possible recombination event in the TBEV genome, obtained from a patient.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum in ticks in Slovenia
Smrdel, Katja Strašek
Županc, Tatjana Avšič
Parasites & Vectors
Ticks act as vectors of many pathogens of domestic animals and humans. Anaplasma phagocytophilum in Europe is transmitted by the ixodid tick vector Ixodes ricinus. A. phagocytophilum causes a disease with diverse clinical signs in various hosts. A great genetic diversity of the groESL operon of A. phagocytophilum has been found in ticks elsewhere. In Slovenia, the variety of the groESL operon was conducted only on deer samples. In this study, the prevalence of infected ticks was estimated and the diversity of A. phagocytophilum was evaluated. On 8 locations in Slovenia, 1924 and 5049 (6973) I. ricinus ticks were collected from vegetation in the years 2005 and 2006, respectively. All three feeding stages of the tick's life cycle were examined. The prevalence of ticks infected with A. phagocytophilum in the year 2005 and in the year 2006 was 0.31% and 0.63%, respectively, and it did not differ considerably between locations. The similarity among the sequences of groESL ranged from 95.6% to 99.8%. They clustered in two genetic lineages along with A. phagocytophilum from Slovenian deer. One sequence formed a separate cluster. According to our study, the prevalence of A. phagocytophilum in ticks is comparable to the findings in other studies in Europe, and it does not vary considerably between locations and tick stages. According to groESL operon analysis, two genetic lineages have been confirmed and one proposed. Further studies on other genes would be useful to obtain more information on genetic diversity of A. phagocytophilum in ticks in Slovenia.
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