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1.  Birds as potential reservoirs of tick-borne pathogens: first evidence of bacteraemia with Rickettsia helvetica 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7:128.
Background
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.
Methods
Blood samples and ticks of birds were analysed with TaqMan real-time PCRs and conventional PCR followed by sequencing.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1756-3305-7-128
PMCID: PMC3976504  PMID: 24679245
Ground feeding birds; Migratory birds; Ticks; Rickettsia helvetica; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis
2.  First evidence of Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis in Hungary 
Parasites & Vectors  2013;6:267.
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.
doi:10.1186/1756-3305-6-267
PMCID: PMC3849741  PMID: 24341500
Tick-borne diseases; Zoonosis; Epidemiology
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.  Protection from reinfection in “Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis”-infected cats and characterization of the immune response 
Veterinary Research  2012;43(1):82.
“Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis” (CMt) is a hemoplasma species of felids. Recent evidence has shown that cats that overcome bacteremia may be protected from reinfection. The purposes of this study were to (1) re-inoculate ostensibly recovered cats, (2) evaluate the immune response and (3) assess CMt tissue loads. Fifteen specified pathogen-free cats were subcutaneously inoculated with CMt: 10 cats (group A) had previously undergone bacteremia and recovered, and 5 naïve cats (group B) served as controls. CMt infections were monitored by real-time PCR using blood and tissue, and the humoral immune response was assessed using DnaK ELISA. Cytokine mRNA expression levels were measured by real-time PCR, and lymphocyte subsets were detected by flow cytometry. The cats in group A were protected from reinfection (no detectable bacteremia) and showed a transient decrease in antibodies. Eosinophilia was noted in cats from group A. The cats from group B became PCR-positive and seroconverted. All of the tissues analyzed from the cats in group B but none of the tissues analyzed from the cats in group A were CMt PCR-positive. Significant changes were observed in the expression of tumor necrosis factor-α, interferon-γ, interleukin-4 and the Th2/Th1 ratio in both groups. The cats from group A occasionally showed higher numbers of CD4+, CD8+, CD4+CD25+ and CD5+MHCII+ T lymphocytes than the control cats. In conclusion, this study describes, for the first time, the occurrence of immunological protection within the same hemoplasma species. Furthermore, the immune response during CMt infections appeared to be skewed toward the Th2 type.
doi:10.1186/1297-9716-43-82
PMCID: PMC3558367  PMID: 23216686
5.  Distinct Host Species Correlate with Anaplasma phagocytophilum ankA Gene Clusters▿† 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2011;49(3):790-796.
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.
doi:10.1128/JCM.02051-10
PMCID: PMC3067700  PMID: 21177886
6.  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
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.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  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
15.  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
16.  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
17.  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
18.  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
19.  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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