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1.  Mechanisms tagging senescent red blood cells for clearance in healthy humans 
This review focuses on the analysis and evaluation of the diverse senescence markers suggested to prime red blood cells (RBC) for clearance in humans. These tags develop in the course of biochemical and structural alterations accompanying RBC aging, as the decrease of activities of multiple enzymes, the gradual accumulation of oxidative damage, the loss of membrane in form of microvesicles, the redistribution of ions and alterations in cell volume, density, and deformability. The actual tags represent the penultimate galactosyl residues, revealed by desialylation of glycophorins, or the aggregates of the anion exchanger (band 3 protein) to which anti-galactose antibodies bind in the first and anti-band 3 naturally occurring antibodies (NAbs) in the second case. While anti-band 3 NAbs bind to the carbohydrate-free portion of band 3 aggregates in healthy humans, induced anti-lactoferrin antibodies bind to the carbohydrate-containing portion of band 3 and along with anti-band 3 NAbs may accelerated clearance of senescent RBC in patients with anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA). Exoplasmically accessible phosphatidylserine (PS) and the alterations in the interplay between CD47 on RBC and its receptor on macrophages, signal regulatory protein alpha (SIRPalpha protein), were also reported to induce erythrocyte clearance. We discuss the relevance of each mechanism and analyze the strength of the data.
doi:10.3389/fphys.2013.00387
PMCID: PMC3872327  PMID: 24399969
human red blood cells; senescence; oxidative stress; hemoglobin; volume; vesicles; naturally occurring antibodies
2.  Naturally Occurring Anti-Band 3 Antibodies in Clearance of Senescent and Oxidatively Stressed Human Red Blood Cells 
Summary
Naturally occurring anti-band 3 antibodies (anti-band 3 NAbs) are directed against the 55-kDa chymotryptic fragment of the anion transport protein (band 3) of red blood cells (RBCs). They bind to senescent and oxidatively stressed RBCs and induce their selective clearance. These IgG NAbs exist at low concentrations, and have a weak affinity that prevents them from actively recruiting second binding sites. Cellular senescence or oxidative damage induces a cascade of biochemical events that results in the detachment of band 3 from the cytoskeleton and in clustering of band 3 protein by bound hemichromes and Syk kinase. Clustered band 3 proteins allow bivalent binding of anti-band 3 NAbs. Bivalently bound anti-band 3 NAbs have the unique capacity to stimulate C3b deposition by preferentially generating C3b2-IgG complexes, which act as potent C3 convertase precursors of the alternative complement pathway. Antibody binding not only to clustered, but also to oligomerized band 3 protein further increases if the human plasma also contains induced anti-lactoferrin antibodies. These bind to the polylactosaminyl oligosaccharide, a carbohydrate that exists in lactoferrin and in the 38-kDa fragment of band 3 protein. Anti-lactoferrin antibodies are found primarily in plasma of patients with autoimmune diseases and who have anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA).
doi:10.1159/000342171
PMCID: PMC3678295  PMID: 23801923
Naturally occurring antibody; Anion transport protein; Band 3; Opsonization; Complement C3b deposition
3.  Stimulation with a class A CpG oligonucleotide enhances resistance to infection with feline viruses from five different families 
Veterinary Research  2012;43(1):60.
Domestic cats are commonly affected by viral pathogens that induce lengthy infections with fatal outcomes. Prevention of viral propagation is of primordial importance in shelters and catteries, where cats from different backgrounds have narrow contacts. Oligonucleotides (ODN) containing cytosine-phosphate-guanosine motifs of class A (CpG-A) are highly potent synthetic inducers of innate antiviral mechanisms. The aim of this study was to test their ability to modulate innate immune responses and prevent viral replication as stand-alone agents in the domestic cat. CpG-A stimulation of feline peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) enhanced their proliferation, increased the presence of co-stimulatory molecules on their surface and influenced their gene expression profiles in an antiviral orientation. Incubation of the supernatants of CpG-A stimulated PBMCs with feline cell lines of epithelial and fibroblastic origin induced expression of the antiviral myxovirus resistance (Mx) gene in these target cells, which also showed enhanced resistance to feline viruses from five distinct families, namely Coronaviridae, Herpesviridae, Caliciviridae, Parvoviridae, and Retroviridae. Most importantly, subcutaneous administration of CpG-A in domestic cats systemically increased the expression of Mx, reaching maximal levels within 24 h. Plasma from treated cats could furthermore inhibit viral replication in vitro. Altogether, our data highlight the promising potential of CpG-A to induce a preventive antiviral state in the cat and to protect feline populations against a broad range of virus infections.
doi:10.1186/1297-9716-43-60
PMCID: PMC3537549  PMID: 22906110
4.  First morphological characterization of ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis’ using electron microscopy 
Veterinary Microbiology  2011;149(3-4):367-373.
At least three haemotropic mycoplasmas have been recognized in cats: Mycoplasma haemofelis (Mhf), ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum’ (CMhm) and ‘Candidatus M. turicensis’ (CMt). The latter was originally identified in a Swiss pet cat with haemolytic anaemia and shown to be prevalent in domestic cats and wild felids worldwide using molecular methods. So far, there has been no confirmatory morphological evidence of the existence of CMt presumably due to low blood loads during infection while CMhm has only been characterized by light microscopy with discrepant results. This study aimed to provide for the first time electron microscopic characteristics of CMt and CMhm and to compare them to Mhf. Blood samples from cats experimentally infected with CMt, CMhm and Mhf were used to determine copy numbers in blood by real-time PCR and for transmission and scanning electron microscopy. High resolution scanning electron microscopy revealed CMt and CMhm to be discoid-shaped organisms of 0.3 μm in diameter attached to red blood cells (RBCs). In transmission electron microscopy of CMt, an oval organism of about 0.25 μm with several intracellular electron dense structures was identified close to the surface of a RBC. CMhm and CMt exhibited similar morphology to Mhf but had a smaller diameter. This is the first study to provide morphological evidence of CMt thereby confirming its status as a distinct haemoplasma species, and to present electron microscopic features of CMhm.
doi:10.1016/j.vetmic.2010.11.020
PMCID: PMC3127424  PMID: 21183295
‘Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis’; ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum’; Haemoplasma; Haemotropic Mycoplasma; Electron microscopy; Real-time PCR
5.  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
6.  Exposure of cats to low doses of FeLV: seroconversion as the sole parameter of infection 
Veterinary Research  2009;41(2):17.
In felids, feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infection results in a variety of outcomes that range from abortive (virus readily eliminated and never detectable) to progressive infection (persistent viremia and viral shedding). Recently, a novel outcome was postulated for low FeLV infectious doses. Naïve cats exposed to faeces of persistently infected cats seroconverted, indicating infection, but remained negative for provirus and p27 antigen in blood. FeLV provirus was found in some tissues but not in the bone marrow, infection of which is usually considered a necessary stage for disease progression. To investigate the impact of low FeLV doses on young cats and to test the hypothesis that low dose exposure may lead to an unknown pathogenesis of infection without involvement of the bone marrow, 21 cats were infected oronasally with variable viral doses. Blood p27, proviral and viral loads were followed until week 20 post-infection. Tissue proviral loads were determined as well. The immune response was monitored by measuring FeLV whole virus and p45 antibodies; and feline oncornavirus-associated cell membrane antigen (FOCMA) assay. One cat showed regressive infection (transient antigenemia, persistent provirus-positivity, and seroconversion) with provirus only found in some organs at sacrifice. In 7 of the 20 remaining cats FOCMA assay positivity was the only sign of infection, while all other tests were negative. Overall, the results show that FeLV low dose exposure can result in seroconversion during a presumed abortive infection. Therefore, commonly used detection methods do not detect all FeLV-infected animals, possibly leading to an underestimation of the prevalence of infection.
doi:10.1051/vetres/2009065
PMCID: PMC2789331  PMID: 19861115
FeLV; pathogenesis; infection outcome; abortive infection; FOCMA assay
7.  Chronic "Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis" infection 
Veterinary Research  2011;42(1):59.
"Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis" infects felids. The pathogenesis of "Candidatus M. turicensis" chronic infection is poorly understood. The goals of the present study were to (1) induce reactivation of the infection in chronic carrier cats by attempted immunosuppression, (2) identify potential tissue sequestration using real-time TaqMan® PCR and (3) monitor the humoral immune response by DnaK enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Ten specified pathogen-free cats that had ostensibly recovered from experimental "Candidatus M. turicensis" infection were used: five cats (group 1) received high dose methylprednisolone (attempted immunosuppression), while five cats served as untreated controls (group 2). Besides weekly blood samples, tissue samples were collected from bone marrow, kidney, liver and salivary glands at selected time points. The cats in group 1 had significantly lower lymphocyte counts and higher blood glucose levels after methylprednisolone administration than the controls. After methylprednisolone administration one blood and three tissue samples from cats in group 1 tested PCR-positive; before the administration, only one sample was positive. All other samples tested PCR-negative. All cats stayed seropositive; the antibody levels of the cats in group 1 showed a significant transient decrease after methylprednisolone administration. This is the first study to report the presence of "Candidatus M. turicensis" in tissues of chronically infected cats and the persistence of anti-feline hemoplasma antibodies in the absence of detectable bacteremia. Methylprednisolone administration did not lead to a significant reactivation of the infection. Our results enhance the knowledge of "Candidatus M. turicensis" infection pathogenesis and are clinically relevant to the prognosis of hemoplasma-infected cats.
doi:10.1186/1297-9716-42-59
PMCID: PMC3090992  PMID: 21507220
8.  Identification, Characterization, and Application of a Recombinant Antigen for the Serological Investigation of Feline Hemotropic Mycoplasma Infections ▿ ‡  
Clinical and Vaccine Immunology : CVI  2010;17(12):1917-1925.
In felids, three hemotropic mycoplasma species (hemoplasmas) have been described: Mycoplasma haemofelis, “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum,” and “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis.” In particular, M. haemofelis may cause severe, potentially life-threatening hemolytic anemia. No routine serological assays for feline hemoplasma infections are available. Thus, the goal of our project was to identify and characterize an M. haemofelis antigen (DnaK) that subsequently could be applied as a recombinant antigen in a serological assay. The gene sequence of this protein was determined using consensus primers and blood samples from two naturally M. haemofelis-infected Swiss pet cats, an experimentally M. haemofelis-infected specific-pathogen-free cat, and a naturally M. haemofelis-infected Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus). The M. haemofelis DnaK gene sequence showed the highest identity to an analogous protein of a porcine hemoplasma (72%). M. haemofelis DnaK was expressed recombinantly in an Escherichia coli DnaK knockout strain and purified using Ni affinity, size-exclusion, and anion-exchange chromatography. It then was biochemically and functionally characterized and showed characteristics typical for DnaKs (secondary structure profile, thermal denaturation, ATPase activity, and DnaK complementation). Moreover, its immunogenicity was assessed using serum samples from experimentally hemoplasma-infected cats. In Western blotting or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, it was recognized by sera from cats infected with M. haemofelis, “Ca. Mycoplasma haemominutum,” and “Ca. Mycoplasma turicensis,” respectively, but not from uninfected cats. This is the first description of a full-length purified recombinant feline hemoplasma antigen that can readily be applied in future pathogenesis studies and may have potential for application in a diagnostic serological test.
doi:10.1128/CVI.00282-10
PMCID: PMC3008192  PMID: 20876820
9.  In vivo transmission studies of ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis’ in the domestic cat 
Veterinary Research  2009;40(5):45.
The natural transmission routes of the three feline haemotropic mycoplasmas – Mycoplasma haemofelis, ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum’, and ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis’ (CMt) – are largely unknown. Since CMt has been detected in the saliva of infected cats using PCR, we hypothesised that direct transmission via social or aggressive contact may occur. The aim of this study was to evaluate this transmission route. CMt-positive saliva and blood samples were obtained from three prednisolone-treated specific pathogen-free (SPF) cats that were infected intraperitoneally with CMt. Five SPF cats were inoculated with CMt-positive saliva or blood subcutaneously to mimic cat bites, and five cats were inoculated orally with blood or oronasally with saliva to mimic social contact. Blood samples were monitored for CMt infection using quantitative real-time PCR and for seroconversion using a novel western blot assay. Neither oronasal nor subcutaneous inoculation with CMt-positive saliva led to CMt infection in the recipient cats, as determined by PCR, independent of prior prednisolone treatment. However, when blood containing the same CMt dose was given subcutaneously, 4 of the 5 cats became PCR-positive, while none of the 5 cats inoculated orally with up to 500 μL of CMt-positive blood became PCR-positive. Subsequently, the latter cats were successfully subcutaneously infected with blood. All 13 CMt-exposed cats seroconverted. In conclusion, CMt transmission by social contact seems less likely than transmission by aggressive interaction. The latter transmission may occur if the recipient cat is exposed to blood from an infected cat.
doi:10.1051/vetres/2009028
PMCID: PMC2701178  PMID: 19505421
haemotropic mycoplasma; transmission; ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis’; real-time TaqMan PCR; seroconversion
10.  Seroprevalences to Viral Pathogens in Free-Ranging and Captive Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) on Namibian Farmland▿  
Cheetah populations are diminishing rapidly in their natural habitat. One reason for their decline is thought to be a high susceptibility to (infectious) diseases because cheetahs in zoos suffer from high disease-induced mortality. Data on the health status of free-ranging cheetahs are scarce, and little is known about their exposure and susceptibility to infectious diseases. We determined seroprevalences to nine key viruses (feline herpesvirus 1, feline calicivirus, feline parvovirus, feline coronavirus, canine distemper virus, feline immunodeficiency virus [FIV], puma lentivirus, feline leukemia virus, and rabies virus) in 68 free-ranging cheetahs on east-central Namibian farmland, 24 nonvaccinated Namibian captive cheetahs, and several other wild carnivore species and conducted necropsies of cheetahs and other wild carnivores. Eight of 11 other wild carnivores were seropositive for at least one of the viruses, including the first record of an FIV-like infection in a wild felid west of the Kalahari, the caracal (Felis caracal). Seroprevalences of the free-ranging cheetahs were below 5% for all nine viruses, which is significantly lower than seroprevalences in nonvaccinated captive cheetahs and those for five of seven viruses in previously studied free-ranging cheetahs from north-central Namibia (L. Munson, L. Marker, E. Dubovi, J. A. Spencer, J. F. Evermann, and S. J. O'Brien, J. Wildl. Dis. 40:23-31, 2004). There was no clinical or pathological evidence of infectious diseases in living or dead cheetahs. The results suggest that while free-ranging wild carnivores may be a source of pathogens, the distribution of seroprevalences across studies mirrored local human population density and factors associated with human habitation, probably reflecting contact opportunities with (nonvaccinated) domestic and feral cats and dogs. They also suggest that Namibian cheetahs respond effectively to viral challenges, encouraging consistent and sustainable conservation efforts.
doi:10.1128/CVI.00345-09
PMCID: PMC2815525  PMID: 19955325
11.  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
12.  Dominance of highly divergent feline leukemia virus A progeny variants in a cat with recurrent viremia and fatal lymphoma 
Retrovirology  2010;7:14.
Background
In a cat that had ostensibly recovered from feline leukemia virus (FeLV) infection, we observed the reappearance of the virus and the development of fatal lymphoma 8.5 years after the initial experimental exposure to FeLV-A/Glasgow-1. The goals of the present study were to investigate this FeLV reoccurrence and molecularly characterize the progeny viruses.
Results
The FeLV reoccurrence was detected by the presence of FeLV antigen and RNA in the blood and saliva. The cat was feline immunodeficiency virus positive and showed CD4+ T-cell depletion, severe leukopenia, anemia and a multicentric monoclonal B-cell lymphoma. FeLV-A, but not -B or -C, was detectable. Sequencing of the envelope gene revealed three FeLV variants that were highly divergent from the virus that was originally inoculated (89-91% identity to FeLV-A/Glasgow-1). In the long terminal repeat 31 point mutations, some previously described in cats with lymphomas, were detected. The FeLV variant tissue provirus and viral RNA loads were significantly higher than the FeLV-A/Glasgow-1 loads. Moreover, the variant loads were significantly higher in lymphoma positive compared to lymphoma negative tissues. An increase in the variant provirus blood load was observed at the time of FeLV reoccurrence.
Conclusions
Our results demonstrate that ostensibly recovered FeLV provirus-positive cats may act as a source of infection following FeLV reactivation. The virus variants that had largely replaced the inoculation strain had unusually heavily mutated envelopes. The mutations may have led to increased viral fitness and/or changed the mutagenic characteristics of the virus.
doi:10.1186/1742-4690-7-14
PMCID: PMC2837606  PMID: 20167134
13.  Quantitative TaqMan® real-time PCR assays for gene expression normalisation in feline tissues 
BMC Molecular Biology  2009;10:106.
Background
Gene expression analysis is an important tool in contemporary research, with real-time PCR as the method of choice for quantifying transcription levels. Co-analysis of suitable reference genes is crucial for accurate expression normalisation. Reference gene expression may vary, e.g., among species or tissues; thus, candidate genes must be tested prior to use in expression studies. The domestic cat is an important study subject in both medical research and veterinary medicine. The aim of the present study was to develop TaqMan® real-time PCR assays for eight potential reference genes and to test their applicability for feline samples, including blood, lymphoid, endocrine, and gastrointestinal tissues from healthy cats, and neoplastic tissues from FeLV-infected cats.
Results
RNA extraction from tissues was optimised for minimal genomic DNA (gDNA) contamination without use of a DNase treatment. Real-time PCR assays were established and optimised for v-abl Abelson murine leukaemia viral oncogene homolog (ABL), β-actin (ACTB), β-2-microglobulin (B2M), β-glucuronidase (GUSB), hydroxymethyl-bilane synthase (HMBS), hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase (HPRT), ribosomal protein S7 (RPS7), and tryptophan 5-monooxygenase activation protein, zeta polypeptide (YWHAZ). The presence of pseudogenes was confirmed for four of the eight investigated genes (ACTB, HPRT, RPS7, and YWHAZ). The assays were tested together with previously developed TaqMan® assays for feline glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) and the universal 18S rRNA gene. Significant differences were found among the expression levels of the ten candidate reference genes, with a ~106-fold expression difference between the most abundant (18S rRNA) and the least abundant genes (ABL, GUSB, and HMBS). The expression stability determined by the geNorm and NormFinder programs differed significantly. Using the ANOVA-based NormFinder program, RPS7 was the most stable gene in the tissues studied, followed by ACTB and ABL; B2M, HPRT, and the 18S rRNA genes were the least stable ones.
Conclusion
The reference gene expression stability varied considerably among the feline tissues investigated. No tested gene was optimal for normalisation in all tissues. For the majority of the tissues, two to three reference genes were necessary for accurate normalisation. The present study yields essential information on the correct choice of feline reference genes depending on the tissues analysed.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-10-106
PMCID: PMC2803789  PMID: 20003366
14.  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
15.  Feline Leukemia Virus and Other Pathogens as Important Threats to the Survival of the Critically Endangered Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(3):e4744.
Background
The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is considered the most endangered felid species in the world. In order to save this species, the Spanish authorities implemented a captive breeding program recruiting lynxes from the wild. In this context, a retrospective survey on prevalence of selected feline pathogens in free-ranging lynxes was initiated.
Methodology/ Principal Findings
We systematically analyzed the prevalence and importance of seven viral, one protozoan (Cytauxzoon felis), and several bacterial (e.g., hemotropic mycoplasma) infections in 77 of approximately 200 remaining free-ranging Iberian lynxes of the Doñana and Sierra Morena areas, in Southern Spain, between 2003 and 2007. With the exception of feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), evidence of infection by all tested feline pathogens was found in Iberian lynxes. Fourteen lynxes were feline leukemia virus (FeLV) provirus-positive; eleven of these were antigenemic (FeLV p27 positive). All 14 animals tested negative for other viral infections. During a six-month period in 2007, six of the provirus-positive antigenemic lynxes died. Infection with FeLV but not with other infectious agents was associated with mortality (p<0.001). Sequencing of the FeLV surface glycoprotein gene revealed a common origin for ten of the eleven samples. The ten sequences were closely related to FeLV-A/61E, originally isolated from cats in the USA. Endogenous FeLV sequences were not detected.
Conclusions/Significance
It was concluded that the FeLV infection most likely originated from domestic cats invading the lynx's habitats. Data available regarding the time frame, co-infections, and outcome of FeLV-infections suggest that, in contrast to the domestic cat, the FeLV strain affecting the lynxes in 2007 is highly virulent to this species. Our data argue strongly for vaccination of lynxes and domestic cats in and around lynx's habitats in order to prevent further spread of the virus as well as reduction the domestic cat population if the lynx population is to be maintained.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004744
PMCID: PMC2649436  PMID: 19270739
16.  Seroprevalence of Selected Infectious Agents in a Free-Ranging, Low-Density Lion Population in the Central Kalahari Game Reserves in Botswana▿  
Twenty-one free-ranging Central Kalahari lions (Panthera leo) exhibited a high prevalence rate of feline herpesvirus (100%) and feline immunodeficiency virus (71.4%). Canine distemper virus and feline calicivirus occurred with a low prevalence. All individuals tested negative for feline coronavirus, feline parvovirus, feline leukemia virus, Ehrlichia canis, and Anaplasma phagocytophilum.
doi:10.1128/CVI.00307-06
PMCID: PMC1951071  PMID: 17460117
17.  Real-Time PCR Investigation of Potential Vectors, Reservoirs, and Shedding Patterns of Feline Hemotropic Mycoplasmas▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(12):3798-3802.
Three hemotropic mycoplasmas have been identified in pet cats: Mycoplasma haemofelis, “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum,” and “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis.” The way in which these agents are transmitted is largely unknown. Thus, this study aimed to investigate fleas, ticks, and rodents as well as saliva and feces from infected cats for the presence of hemotropic mycoplasmas, to gain insight into potential transmission routes for these agents. DNA was extracted from arthropods and from rodent blood or tissue samples from Switzerland and from salivary and fecal swabs from two experimentally infected and six naturally infected cats. All samples were analyzed with real-time PCR, and some positive samples were confirmed by sequencing. Feline hemotropic mycoplasmas were detected in cat fleas and in a few Ixodes sp. and Rhipicephalus sp. ticks collected from animals but not in ticks collected from vegetation or from rodent samples, although the latter were frequently Mycoplasma coccoides PCR positive. When shedding patterns of feline hemotropic mycoplasmas were investigated, “Ca. Mycoplasma turicensis” DNA was detected in saliva and feces at the early but not at the late phase of infection. M. haemofelis and “Ca. Mycoplasma haemominutum” DNA was not amplified from saliva and feces of naturally infected cats, despite high hemotropic mycoplasma blood loads. Our results suggest that besides an ostensibly indirect transmission by fleas, direct transmission through saliva and feces at the early phase of infection could play a role in the epizootiology of feline hemotropic mycoplasmas. Neither the investigated tick nor the rodent population seems to represent a major reservoir for feline hemotropic mycoplasmas in Switzerland.
doi:10.1128/AEM.02977-06
PMCID: PMC1932730  PMID: 17468284
18.  Worldwide Occurrence of Feline Hemoplasma Infections in Wild Felid Species▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2007;45(4):1159-1166.
While hemoplasma infections in domestic cats are well studied, almost no information is available on their occurrence in wild felids. The aims of the present study were to investigate wild felid species as possible reservoirs of feline hemoplasmas and the molecular characterization of the hemoplasma isolates. Blood samples from the following 257 wild felids were analyzed: 35 Iberian lynxes from Spain, 36 Eurasian lynxes from Switzerland, 31 European wildcats from France, 45 lions from Tanzania, and 110 Brazilian wild felids, including 12 wild felid species kept in zoos and one free-ranging ocelot. Using real-time PCR, feline hemoplasmas were detected in samples of the following species: Iberian lynx, Eurasian lynx, European wildcat, lion, puma, oncilla, Geoffroy's cat, margay, and ocelot. “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum” was the most common feline hemoplasma in Iberian lynxes, Eurasian lynxes, Serengeti lions, and Brazilian wild felids, whereas “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” was the most prevalent in European wildcats; hemoplasma coinfections were frequently observed. Hemoplasma infection was associated with species and free-ranging status of the felids in all animals and with feline leukemia virus provirus-positive status in European wildcats. Phylogenetic analyses of the 16S rRNA and the partial RNase P gene revealed that most hemoplasma isolates exhibit high sequence identities to domestic cat-derived isolates, although some isolates form different subclusters within the phylogenetic tree. In conclusion, 9 out of 15 wild felid species from three different continents were found to be infected with feline hemoplasmas. The effect of feline hemoplasma infections on wild felid populations needs to be further investigated.
doi:10.1128/JCM.02005-06
PMCID: PMC1865832  PMID: 17301277
19.  Complement Factor D, Albumin, and Immunoglobulin G Anti-Band 3 Protein Antibodies Mimic Serum in Promoting Rosetting of Malaria-Infected Red Blood Cells▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;75(4):1771-1777.
Rosetting of Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells (parasitized RBC [pRBC]) with uninfected RBC has been associated in many studies with malaria morbidity and is one form of cytoadherence observed with malarial parasites. Rosetting is serum dependent for many isolates of P. falciparum, including the strains FCR3S1.2 and Malayan Camp studied here. We identified the three naturally occurring components of sera which confer rosetting. Complement factor D alone induced 30 to 40% of de novo rosetting. Its effect was additive to that of 0.5 mg/ml albumin and to that of 15 ng/ml of naturally occurring antibodies to the anion transport protein, band 3. The three components together mediated rosetting as effectively as 10% serum. De novo rosetting experiments showed that naturally occurring anti-band 3 antibodies as well as factor D were effective only when added to pRBC. Factor D appeared to cleave a small fraction of a protein expressed on the surface of pRBC.
doi:10.1128/IAI.01514-06
PMCID: PMC1865670  PMID: 17261605
20.  Phylogenetic Analysis of “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” Isolates from Pet Cats in the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Africa, with Analysis of Risk Factors for Infection▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2006;44(12):4430-4435.
Two hemotropic mycoplasmas have been recognized in cats, Mycoplasma haemofelis and “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum.” We recently described a third feline hemoplasma species, designated “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis,” in a Swiss cat with hemolytic anemia. This isolate induced anemia after experimental transmission to two specific-pathogen-free cats and analysis of the 16S rRNA gene revealed its close relationship to rodent hemotropic mycoplasmas. The agent was recently shown to be prevalent in Swiss pet cats. We sought to investigate the presence and clinical importance of “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” infection in pet cats outside of Switzerland and to perform the molecular characterization of isolates from different countries. A “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis”-specific real-time PCR assay was applied to blood samples from 426 United Kingdom (UK), 147 Australian, and 69 South African pet cats. The 16S rRNA genes of isolates from different countries were sequenced and signalment and laboratory data for the cats were evaluated for associations with “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” infection. Infections were detected in samples from UK, Australian, and South African pet cats. Infection was associated with the male gender, and “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum” and M. haemofelis coinfection. Coinfected cats exhibited significantly lower packed cell volume (PCV) values than uninfected cats. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that some Australian and South African “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” isolates branched away from the remaining isolates. In summary, “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” infection in pet cats exists over a wide geographical area and significantly decreased PCV values are observed in cats coinfected with other feline hemoplasmas.
doi:10.1128/JCM.00987-06
PMCID: PMC1698426  PMID: 17035497
21.  Prevalence, Risk Factor Analysis, and Follow-Up of Infections Caused by Three Feline Hemoplasma Species in Cats in Switzerland 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2006;44(3):961-969.
Recently, a third novel feline hemotropic Mycoplasma sp. (aka hemoplasma), “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis,” in a cat with hemolytic anemia has been described. This is the first study to investigate the prevalence, clinical manifestations, and risk factors for all three feline hemoplasma infections in a sample of 713 healthy and ill Swiss cats using newly designed quantitative real-time PCR assays. “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum” infection was detected in 7.0% and 8.7% and Mycoplasma haemofelis was detected in 2.3% and 0.2% of healthy and ill cats, respectively. “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” was only detected in six ill cats (1.1%); three of them were coinfected with “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum.” The 16S rRNA gene sequence of 12 Swiss hemoplasma isolates revealed >98% similarity with previously published sequences. Hemoplasma infection was associated with male gender, outdoor access, and old age but not with retrovirus infection and was more frequent in certain areas of Switzerland. “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum”-infected ill cats were more frequently diagnosed with renal insufficiency and exhibited higher renal blood parameters than uninfected ill cats. No correlation between hemoplasma load and packed cell volume was found, although several hemoplasma-infected cats, some coinfected with feline immunodeficiency virus or feline leukemia virus, showed hemolytic anemia. High M. haemofelis loads (>9 × 105 copies/ml blood) seem to lead to anemia in acutely infected cats but not in recovered long-term carriers. A repeated evaluation of 17 cats documented that the infection was acquired in one case by blood transfusion and that there were important differences among species regarding whether or not antibiotic administration led to the resolution of bacteremia.
doi:10.1128/JCM.44.3.961-969.2006
PMCID: PMC1393118  PMID: 16517884
22.  Feline Coronavirus Serotypes 1 and 2: Seroprevalence and Association with Disease in Switzerland 
To determine the prevalence of antibodies to feline coronavirus (FCoV) serotypes 1 and 2 in Switzerland and their association with different disease manifestations, a serological study based on immunofluorescence tests was conducted with Swiss field cats using transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV), FCoV type 1 and FCoV type 2 as antigens. A total of 639 serum samples collected in the context of different studies from naturally infected cats were tested. The current study revealed that, with an apparent prevalence of 83%, FCoV serotype 1 is the most prevalent serotype in Switzerland. FCoV type 1 viruses induced higher antibody titers than FCoV type 2, and were more frequently associated with clinical signs and/or feline infectious peritonitis. The antibody development in seven cats experimentally infected with FCoV type 1 revealed that, with progressing duration of infection, antibodies to FCoV type 1 significantly increased over those to FCoV type 2. There was a significant relationship between antibody titers against TGEV, FCoV 1, and FCoV 2 and TGEV antigen detected the highest proportion of seropositive cats. We conclude that a vaccine against FCoV should be based on FCoV type 1-related antigens and that for serodiagnosis of FCoV infection TGEV should be used to attain the highest diagnostic efficiency. When serology is used in addition to clinical signs, hematology, and clinical chemistry results as an aid to diagnose clinical FIP, TGEV shows a diagnostic efficiency equal to that of a FCoV antigen.
doi:10.1128/CDLI.12.10.1209-1215.2005
PMCID: PMC1247821  PMID: 16210485
23.  Identification, Molecular Characterization, and Experimental Transmission of a New Hemoplasma Isolate from a Cat with Hemolytic Anemia in Switzerland 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2005;43(6):2581-2585.
Recently, there has been a growing interest in hemotropic mycoplasmal species (also known as the hemoplasmas), the causative agents of infectious anemia in several mammalian species. In felids, two different hemoplasma species have been recognized: Mycoplasma haemofelis (formerly Haemobartonella felis) and “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum.” Recently developed molecular methods have allowed sensitive and specific identification and quantification of these agents in feline blood samples. In applying these methods to an epidemiological study surveying the Swiss pet cat population for hemoplasma infection, we discovered a third novel and unique feline hemoplasma isolate in a blood sample collected from a cat that had exhibited clinical signs of severe hemolytic anemia. This agent was readily transmitted via intravenous inoculation to two specific-pathogen-free cats. One of these cats was immunocompromised by the administration of methylprednisolone acetate prior to inoculation, and this cat developed severe anemia. The other immunocompetent cat showed a moderate decrease in packed cell volume. Additionally, an increase in red blood cell osmotic fragility was observed. Sequencing of the entire 16S rRNA gene of the new hemoplasma isolate and phylogenetic analysis showed that the isolate was most closely related to two rodent hemotropic mycoplasmal species, M. coccoides and M. haemomuris. A quantitative real-time PCR assay specific for this newly discovered agent was developed, which will be a prerequisite for the diagnosis of infections with the new hemoplasma isolate.
doi:10.1128/JCM.43.6.2581-2585.2005
PMCID: PMC1151947  PMID: 15956367
24.  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
25.  Concurrent Infections with Vector-Borne Pathogens Associated with Fatal Hemolytic Anemia in a Cattle Herd in Switzerland 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2004;42(8):3775-3780.
Bovine anaplasmosis is a vector-borne disease that results in substantial economic losses in other parts of the world but so far not in northern Europe. In August 2002, a fatal disease outbreak was reported in a large dairy herd in the Swiss canton of Grisons. Diseased animals experienced fever, anorexia, agalactia, and depression. Anemia, ectoparasite infestation, and, occasionally, hemoglobinuria were observed. To determine the roles of vector-borne pathogens and to characterize the disease, blood samples were collected from all 286 animals: 50% of the cows were anemic. Upon microscopic examination of red blood cells, Anaplasma marginale inclusion bodies were found in 47% of the cows. The infection was confirmed serologically and by molecular methods. Interestingly, we also found evidence of infections with Anaplasma phagocytophilum, large Babesia and Theileria spp., and Mycoplasma wenyonii. The last two species had not previously been described in Switzerland. Anemia was significantly associated with the presence of the infectious agents detected, with the exception of A. phagocytophilum. Remarkably, concurrent infections with up to five infectious vector-borne agents were detected in 90% of the ill animals tested by PCR. We concluded that A. marginale was the major cause of the hemolytic anemia, while coinfections with other agents exacerbated the disease. This was the first severe disease outbreak associated with concurrent infections with vector-borne pathogens in alpine Switzerland; it was presumably curtailed by culling of the entire herd. It remains to be seen whether similar disease outbreaks will have to be anticipated in northern Europe in the future.
doi:10.1128/JCM.42.8.3775-3780.2004
PMCID: PMC497630  PMID: 15297529

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