Urban, natural, and pasture areas were investigated for prevalences and 16S rRNA gene variants of Anaplasma phagocytophilum in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks. The prevalences differed significantly between habitat types, and year-to-year variations in prevalence and habitat-dependent occurrence of 16S rRNA gene variants were detected.
Many factors are involved in determining the latitudinal and altitudinal spread of the important tick vector Ixodes ricinus (Acari: Ixodidae) in Europe, as well as in changes in the distribution within its prior endemic zones. This paper builds on published literature and unpublished expert opinion from the VBORNET network with the aim of reviewing the evidence for these changes in Europe and discusses the many climatic, ecological, landscape and anthropogenic drivers. These can be divided into those directly related to climatic change, contributing to an expansion in the tick’s geographic range at extremes of altitude in central Europe, and at extremes of latitude in Scandinavia; those related to changes in the distribution of tick hosts, particularly roe deer and other cervids; other ecological changes such as habitat connectivity and changes in land management; and finally, anthropogenically induced changes. These factors are strongly interlinked and often not well quantified. Although a change in climate plays an important role in certain geographic regions, for much of Europe it is non-climatic factors that are becoming increasingly important. How we manage habitats on a landscape scale, and the changes in the distribution and abundance of tick hosts are important considerations during our assessment and management of the public health risks associated with ticks and tick-borne disease issues in 21st century Europe. Better understanding and mapping of the spread of I. ricinus (and changes in its abundance) is, however, essential to assess the risk of the spread of infections transmitted by this vector species. Enhanced tick surveillance with harmonized approaches for comparison of data enabling the follow-up of trends at EU level will improve the messages on risk related to tick-borne diseases to policy makers, other stake holders and to the general public.
Tick; Ixodes; Europe; Distribution; Climate; Ecology; Surveillance; Tick-borne disease
Pet animal movement is ever increasing within the European Union and in that context canine vectorborne infections gained a considerable importance. Information on these infections in travelled dogs is nevertheless limited. A first prospective study on vector-borne infections was conducted in 106 dogs travelling from Germany to countries in South and South-East Europe. The dogs were screened prior to and consecutively up to three times after travel by haematological (Giemsa-stained buffy coat smears, Knott’s-Test), molecular biological (PCR) as well as serological (IFAT, DiroChek®-ELISA) methods for arthropod-borne infections. Seven animals were seropositive for antibodies against Babesia canis sspp., Leishmania spp. and/or Ehrlichia canis prior to travel to Italy, Spain, France, Croatia, Greece, or Hungary. In the consecutive screening after return there was no increase in the number of seropositive dogs. None was positive in direct methods. The mean duration of the stay was 17 days and 51% of the dogs were prophylactically treated with ectoparasiticidal formulations. Preliminary data from this study on canine vector-borne infections indicate a low risk for infection during a limited single stay in endemic countries.
Vector-borne infections; Travelling dogs; Prophylaxis; Germany
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (CNM) has been described in the hard tick Ixodes ricinus and rodents as well as in some severe cases of human disease. The aims of this study were to identify DNA of CNM in small mammals, the ticks parasitizing them and questing ticks in areas with sympatric existence of Ixodes ricinus and Dermacentor reticulatus in Germany.
Blood, transudate and organ samples (spleen, kidney, liver, skin) of 91 small mammals and host-attached ticks from altogether 50 small mammals as well as questing I. ricinus ticks (n=782) were screened with a real-time PCR for DNA of CNM.
52.7% of the small mammals were positive for CNM-DNA. The majority of the infected animals were yellow-necked mice (Apodemus flavicollis) and bank voles (Myodes glareolus). Small mammals with tick infestation were more often infected with CNM than small mammals without ticks. Compared with the prevalence of ~25% in the questing I. ricinus ticks, twice the prevalence in the rodents provides evidence for their role as reservoir hosts for CNM.
The high prevalence of this pathogen in the investigated areas in both rodents and ticks points towards the need for more specific investigation on its role as a human pathogen.
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; Bank vole; Yellow-necked mouse; Ixodes ricinus; Dermacentor reticulatus; Recreational area; Host survey; Vector-host relation
The aims of this study were to evaluate the host-tick-pathogen interface of Babesia spp. and Anaplasma phagocytophilum in restored areas in both questing and host-attached Ixodes ricinus and Dermacentor reticulatus and their small mammalian hosts.
Questing ticks were collected from 5 sites within the city of Leipzig, Germany, in 2009. Small mammals were trapped at 3 of the 5 sites during 2010 and 2011. DNA extracts of questing and host-attached I. ricinus and D. reticulatus and of several tissue types of small mammals (the majority bank voles and yellow-necked mice), were investigated by PCR followed by sequencing for the occurrence of DNA of Babesia spp. and by real-time PCR for A. phagocytophilum. A selected number of samples positive for A. phagocytophilum were further investigated for variants of the partial 16S rRNA gene. Co-infection with Rickettsia spp. in the questing ticks was additionally investigated.
4.1% of questing I. ricinus ticks, but no D. reticulatus, were positive for Babesia sp. and 8.7% of I. ricinus for A. phagocytophilum. Sequencing revealed B. microti, B. capreoli and Babesia spp. EU1 in Leipzig and sequence analysis of the partial 16S RNA gene of A. phagocytophilum revealed variants either rarely reported in human cases or associated with cervid hosts. The statistical analysis revealed significantly less ticks infected with A. phagocytophilum in a city park in Leipzig as compared to the other sampling sites. A. phagocytophilum-DNA was detected in 2 bank voles, DNA of B. microti in 1 striped field-mouse and of Babesia sp. EU1 in the skin tissue of a mole. Co-infections were detected.
Our results show the involvement of small mammals in the natural endemic cycles of tick-borne pathogens. A more thorough understanding of the interactions of ticks, pathogens and hosts is the essential basis for effective preventive control measures.
Babesia spp; Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Ixodes ricinus; Dermacentor reticulatus; Bank vole; Yellow-necked mouse; Recreational area; Host survey; Vector-host relation
Equine Granulocytic Anaplasmosis (EGA) is caused by Anaplasma phagocytophilum, a tick-transmitted, obligate intracellular bacterium. In Europe, it is transmitted by Ixodes ricinus. A large number of genetic variants of A. phagocytophilum circulate in nature and have been found in ticks and different animals. Attempts have been made to assign certain genetic variants to certain host species or pathologies, but have not been successful so far. The purpose of this study was to investigate the causing agent A. phagocytophilum of 14 cases of EGA in naturally infected horses with molecular methods on the basis of 4 partial genes (16S rRNA, groEL, msp2, and msp4).
All DNA extracts of EDTA-blood samples of the horses gave bands of the correct nucleotide size in all four genotyping PCRs. Sequence analysis revealed 4 different variants in the partial 16S rRNA, groEL gene and msp2 genes, and 3 in the msp4 gene. One 16S rRNA gene variant involved in 11 of the 14 cases was identical to the "prototype" variant causing disease in humans in the amplified part [GenBank: U02521]. Phylogenetic analysis revealed as expected for the groEL gene that sequences from horses clustered separately from roe deer. Sequences of the partial msp2 gene from this study formed a separate cluster from ruminant variants in Europe and from all US variants.
The results show that more than one variant of A. phagocytophilum seems to be involved in EGA in Germany. The comparative genetic analysis of the variants involved points towards different natural cycles in the epidemiology of A. phagocytophilum, possibly involving different reservoir hosts or host adaptation, rather than a strict species separation.
Only limited information is available about the occurrence of ticks and tick-borne pathogens in public parks, which are areas strongly influenced by human beings. For this reason, Ixodes ricinus were collected in public parks of different Bavarian cities in a 2-year survey (2009 and 2010) and screened for DNA of Babesia spp., Rickettsia spp. and Bartonella spp. by PCR. Species identification was performed by sequence analysis and alignment with existing sequences in GenBank. Additionally, coinfections with Anaplasma phagocytophilum were investigated.
The following prevalences were detected: Babesia spp.: 0.4% (n = 17, including one pool of two larvae) in 2009 and 0.5 to 0.7% (n = 11, including one pool of five larvae) in 2010; Rickettsia spp.: 6.4 to 7.7% (n = 285, including 16 pools of 76 larvae) in 2009. DNA of Bartonella spp. in I. ricinus in Bavarian public parks could not be identified. Sequence analysis revealed the following species: Babesia sp. EU1 (n = 25), B. divergens (n = 1), B. divergens/capreoli (n = 1), B. gibsoni-like (n = 1), R. helvetica (n = 272), R. monacensis IrR/Munich (n = 12) and unspecified R. monacensis (n = 1). The majority of coinfections were R. helvetica with A. phagocytophilum (n = 27), but coinfections between Babesia spp. and A. phagocytophilum, or Babesia spp. and R. helvetica were also detected.
I. ricinus ticks in urban areas of Germany harbor several tick-borne pathogens and coinfections were also observed. Public parks are of particularly great interest regarding the epidemiology of tick-borne pathogens, because of differences in both the prevalence of pathogens in ticks as well as a varying species arrangement when compared to woodland areas. The record of DNA of a Babesia gibsoni-like pathogen detected in I. ricinus suggests that I. ricinus may harbor and transmit more Babesia spp. than previously known. Because of their high recreational value for human beings, urban green areas are likely to remain in the research focus on public health issues.
To explore increased risk for human Rickettsia spp. infection in Germany, we investigated recreational areas and renatured brown coal surface-mining sites (also used for recreation) for the presence of spotted fever group rickettsiae in ticks. R. raoultii (56.7%), R. slovaca (13.3%), and R. helvetica (>13.4%) were detected in the respective tick species.
Rickettsia; vector-borne infections; bacteria; ticks Germany; dispatch
Anaplasmosis is a vectorborne disease caused by the gram-negative bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum. This species displays positive tropism to granulocytes and can cause illness in several mammalian species, including cats, dogs, and humans. It is considered as an emerging disease in Europe. The clinical signs are nonspecific and include fever, lethargy, and inappetence. The most typical hematologic abnormality is thrombocytopenia. A tentative diagnosis can be made by detecting intracytoplasmic morulae inside neutrophils. The diagnosis is confirmed by PCR and serology in paired serum samples. A sample for PCR analysis should be taken before treatment. Anaplasmosis is treated with doxycycline.
A feline case of anaplasmosis is presented. The history, clinical presentation, diagnostics, treatment, and follow-up are discussed.
This case indicates that Anaplasma phagocytophilum infects cats in Finland. To provide accurate treatment, anaplasmosis should be listed as a differential diagnosis in cats suffering from acute febrile illness with previous tick exposure.
Little information is available on the immunological aspect of parasitic Gasterophilus intestinalis (Diptera, Oestridae) larvae causing horse gastric myiasis. The objectives of this research were to analyze the protein content of larval crude extracts of the migrating second and third larvae (L2 and L3) of G. intestinalis in order to characterize the immune response of horses.
The proteomic profile of L2 and L3, investigated by using one and two dimensional approaches, revealed a migration pattern specific to each larval stage. Furthermore, Western blots were performed with horse sera and with sera of Balb/c mice immunised with the larval crude extracts of L2 or L3, revealing a different immune reaction in naturally infected horses vs. artificially induced immune reaction in mice. The comparisons of the immunoblot profiles demonstrate that the stage L2 is more immunogenic than the stage L3 most likely as an effect of the highest enzymatic production of L2 while migrating through the host tissues. Fifteen proteins were identified by mass spectrometry.
This work provides further information into the understanding of the interaction between G. intestinalis and their host and by contributing a novel scheme of the proteomic profile of the main larval stages.
Among 310 fleas collected from dogs and cats in Germany, Rickettsia felis was detected in all specimens (34) of Archaeopsylla erinacei (hedgehog flea) and in 9% (24/226) of Ctenocephalides felis felis (cat flea). R. helvetica was detected in 1 Ceratophyllus gallinae (hen flea).
Rickettsia felis; fleas; Germany; dispatch
Anaplasma phagocytophilum DNA was detected by real-time PCR, which targeted the msp2 gene, in 2.9% of questing Ixodes ricinus ticks (adults and nymphs; n = 2,862), collected systematically from selected locations in Bavaria, Germany, in 2006. Prevalence was significantly higher in urban public parks in Munich than in natural forests.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; prevalence; ticks; Ixodes ricinus; molecular epidemiology; Bavaria; Germany; dispatch
Rickettsia felis; France; polymerase chain reaction; Ctenocephalis felis; Ctenocephalis canis; Archaeopsylla erinacei; letter
The role of wild mammals, such as roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), in the epidemiology of granulocytic ehrlichiae in Switzerland was investigated. We tested blood samples for Ehrlichia phagocytophila genogroup 16S rRNA gene sequences by PCR and for immunoglobulin G antibodies against granulocytic ehrlichiae by indirect fluorescent-antibody assay (IFA). Overall means of 60.9% of 133 roe deer serum samples and 28.2% of 39 chamois serum samples were seroreactive by IFA. PCR results were positive for 18.4% of 103 roe deer serum samples as well. None of the 24 chamois blood samples tested were positive by PCR. Partial 16S rRNA gene and groESL heat shock operon sequences of three roe deer samples tested showed strong degrees of homology (≥99.7 and ≥98.6%, respectively) with the sequences of granulocytic ehrlichiae isolated from humans. These results confirm that chamois, and particularly roe deer, are commonly infected with granulocytic ehrlichiae and provide evidence that these wild mammals are potential reservoirs for granulocytic ehrlichiae in Switzerland.