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author:("steen, snore")
1.  An Emerging Tick-Borne Disease of Humans Is Caused by a Subset of Strains with Conserved Genome Structure 
Pathogens  2013;2(3):544-555.
The prevalence of tick-borne diseases is increasing worldwide. One such emerging disease is human anaplasmosis. The causative organism, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, is known to infect multiple animal species and cause human fatalities in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Although long known to infect ruminants, it is unclear why there are increasing numbers of human infections. We analyzed the genome sequences of strains infecting humans, animals and ticks from diverse geographic locations. Despite extensive variability amongst these strains, those infecting humans had conserved genome structure including the pfam01617 superfamily that encodes the major, neutralization-sensitive, surface antigen. These data provide potential targets to identify human-infective strains and have significance for understanding the selective pressures that lead to emergence of disease in new species.
PMCID: PMC4235699  PMID: 25437207
anaplasmosis; tick-borne diseases; high-throughput sequencing; pfam01617; msp2/p44; comparative genomics
2.  Anaplasma phagocytophilum—a widespread multi-host pathogen with highly adaptive strategies 
The bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum has for decades been known to cause the disease tick-borne fever (TBF) in domestic ruminants in Ixodes ricinus-infested areas in northern Europe. In recent years, the bacterium has been found associated with Ixodes-tick species more or less worldwide on the northern hemisphere. A. phagocytophilum has a broad host range and may cause severe disease in several mammalian species, including humans. However, the clinical symptoms vary from subclinical to fatal conditions, and considerable underreporting of clinical incidents is suspected in both human and veterinary medicine. Several variants of A. phagocytophilum have been genetically characterized. Identification and stratification into phylogenetic subfamilies has been based on cell culturing, experimental infections, PCR, and sequencing techniques. However, few genome sequences have been completed so far, thus observations on biological, ecological, and pathological differences between genotypes of the bacterium, have yet to be elucidated by molecular and experimental infection studies. The natural transmission cycles of various A. phagocytophilum variants, the involvement of their respective hosts and vectors involved, in particular the zoonotic potential, have to be unraveled. A. phagocytophilum is able to persist between seasons of tick activity in several mammalian species and movement of hosts and infected ticks on migrating animals or birds may spread the bacterium. In the present review, we focus on the ecology and epidemiology of A. phagocytophilum, especially the role of wildlife in contribution to the spread and sustainability of the infection in domestic livestock and humans.
PMCID: PMC3717505  PMID: 23885337
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; ecology; epidemiology; distribution; hosts; vectors
3.  Structure of the type IV secretion system in different strains of Anaplasma phagocytophilum 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:678.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an intracellular organism in the Order Rickettsiales that infects diverse animal species and is causing an emerging disease in humans, dogs and horses. Different strains have very different cell tropisms and virulence. For example, in the U.S., strains have been described that infect ruminants but not dogs or rodents. An intriguing question is how the strains of A. phagocytophilum differ and what different genome loci are involved in cell tropisms and/or virulence. Type IV secretion systems (T4SS) are responsible for translocation of substrates across the cell membrane by mechanisms that require contact with the recipient cell. They are especially important in organisms such as the Rickettsiales which require T4SS to aid colonization and survival within both mammalian and tick vector cells. We determined the structure of the T4SS in 7 strains from the U.S. and Europe and revised the sequence of the repetitive virB6 locus of the human HZ strain.
Although in all strains the T4SS conforms to the previously described split loci for vir genes, there is great diversity within these loci among strains. This is particularly evident in the virB2 and virB6 which are postulated to encode the secretion channel and proteins exposed on the bacterial surface. VirB6-4 has an unusual highly repetitive structure and can have a molecular weight greater than 500,000. For many of the virs, phylogenetic trees position A. phagocytophilum strains infecting ruminants in the U.S. and Europe distant from strains infecting humans and dogs in the U.S.
Our study reveals evidence of gene duplication and considerable diversity of T4SS components in strains infecting different animals. The diversity in virB2 is in both the total number of copies, which varied from 8 to 15 in the herein characterized strains, and in the sequence of each copy. The diversity in virB6 is in the sequence of each of the 4 copies in the single locus and the presence of varying numbers of repetitive units in virB6-3 and virB6-4. These data suggest that the T4SS should be investigated further for a potential role in strain virulence of A. phagocytophilum.
PMCID: PMC3556328  PMID: 23190684
Anaplasma; phagocytophilum; Rickettsiales; T4SS; Comparative genomics
4.  Benzimidazole resistance of sheep nematodes in Norway confirmed through controlled efficacy test 
Resistance against benzimidazoles (BZ) has recently been detected in Norwegian sheep flocks through a large scale prevalence survey based on the faecal egg count reduction test (FECRT). The use of this test in combination with bulk larval culture only gives an indication of which gastrointestinal nematodes genera that are involved and these results have to be confirmed by a controlled efficacy test (CET) to get accurate information about resistant nematodes populations at species level. A CET was therefore performed with larvae from two flocks where BZ resistance was previously detected through FECRT.
The latter test confirmed the previous results in both flocks. In flock A, the BZ resistant nematode population consisted solely of Haemonchus contortus, whereas H. contortus and Teladorsagia circumcincta comprised the resistant worm population in flock B.
Some discrepancies that have been recorded between FECRT and CET results regarding time for post-treatment coproscopical examination and a temporary suppression of faecal egg excretion are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3511810  PMID: 22932059
Benzimidazole; Anthelmintic resistance; FECRT; Controlled efficacy test; Sheep
5.  Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in Ixodes ricinus ticks from Norway: evaluation of a PCR test targeting the chromosomal flaB gene 
Experimental & Applied Acarology  2012;58(4):431-439.
A consensus TaqMan real-time PCR test targeting the chromosomal flaB gene of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato was constructed. The test was compared with a recently published generic Light Upon eXtension (LUX) 16S rRNA real-time PCR test (Wilhelmsson et al. in J Clin Microbiol 48:4169–4176, 2010) on material consisting of 242 Ixodes ricinus ticks collected from dogs and cats in Northern Norway (n = 139) and Telemark County in Southern Norway (n = 103). Ticks positive in either test were further tested by nested PCR amplification of the 5S-23S rRNA intergenic-spacer region followed by sequencing for species identification. A tick was defined as Borrelia positive if two of three tests were positive. Thirty-four of the 242 (14 %) ticks satisfied this definition of positivity. Of these ticks 32 were positive both in the rRNA and flaB test, while two were positive only in the rRNA test. One tick was positive only in the rRNA test and was considered false positive since PCR for sequencing failed. The sensitivity of the flaB test was 94 % and the specificity 100 %. It was possible to determine the species present using Tm analysis. Among ticks from Northern Norway the prevalence of Borrelia was 13 %, whereas the prevalence in Telemark was 16 %. Among identified species (n = 33) B. afzelii was found in 16 (47 %), B. garinii in 15 (44 %) and B. valaisiana in 2 (6 %) ticks, respectively. The flaB test is a rapid, sensitive and specific test for detection and quantification of Borrelia burgdorferi s.l. in I. ricinus ticks. This is the first report on Borrelia prevalence in I. ricinus in Northern Norway.
PMCID: PMC3486994  PMID: 22684812
Lyme borreliosis; Ixodes ricinus; TaqMan real-time PCR; Norway; flaB gene; Prevalence; Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato
6.  Prophylactic treatment with flumethrin, a pyrethroid (Bayticol®, Bayer), against Anaplasma phagocytophilum infection in lambs 
Anaplasma phagocytophilum (formerly Ehrlichia phagocytophila) causes the disease tick-borne fever (TBF) in domestic ruminants and has for decades been one of the main scourges for the sheep industry in the coastal areas of Norway. Current control strategies are based on reduction of tick infestation by chemical acaricides.
In the present study, we investigated if frequent pour-on applications of pyrethroids would reduce tick infestion rate and seroprevalence of A. phagocytophilum infection in sheep. Forty lambs, one month old, of the Norwegian White Sheep breed were used. The lambs belonged to the experimental sheep flock at the Department of Production Animal Clinical Sciences. None of the lambs had been on I. ricinus infested pasture before turnout (day 0). All lambs were twins and twenty lambs were treated with a pour-on pyrethroid (Bayticol®, Bayer A/S, DK-2300) with a dose of 5 ml on days 0, 14, 28, 42, 56, 70, 84, 98, 112 and 128. Twenty lambs were untreated controls. The lambs were collected every fourteen days on pasture for treatment. In addition, the lambs were examined for ticks, blood sampled, weighed, and rectal temperature was recorded.
Results and conclusion
A significant reduction in tick infestion rate was detected on treated lambs. However, the present results indicate that frequent acaricide treatment does not reduce the seroprevalence to A. phagocytophilum on tick-infested pasture.
PMCID: PMC3517450  PMID: 22621773
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Treatment; Pyrethroids; Lamb
7.  Prevalence of anthelmintic resistance in gastrointestinal nematodes of sheep and goats in Norway 
Parasitology Research  2012;111(1):185-193.
In the period of 2008–2009, the efficacies of the benzimidazole (BZ) albendazole and the macrocyclic lactone (ML) ivermectin against gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN) of small ruminants were evaluated by means of the fecal egg count reduction (FECR) test and by post-treatment identification of surviving third stage (L3) larvae after coproculture. Sheep (n = 28) and goat (n = 28) flocks from three areas of Norway were randomly selected to assess the prevalence of anthelmintic resistance (AR), whereas only lambs from non-randomly selected sheep flocks (n = 32) with a farm management that could select for AR were investigated the second year. Only flocks with a mean excretion of nematode eggs per gram feces (EPG) ≥150 at time of treatment were included in the survey. In total, 48 (80%) and 13 (46.4%) of the selected sheep and goat flocks, respectively, fulfilled the inclusion criteria. The proportions of flocks classified as resistant (i.e., FECR <95% and with a lower 95% confidence interval of <90%) for the BZ drug albendazole were 10.5% and 31.0% in the randomly and non-randomly selected sheep flocks, respectively. When restricting the area to Rogaland County, eight flocks out of ten (80%) non-randomly selected sheep flocks showed BZ resistance. The efficacy of ML was 100% in all surveyed sheep and goat flocks. In post-treatment coprocultures from the non-randomly selected flocks, the main nematode genera were Teladorsagia/Trichostrongylus in five flocks, Haemonchus in two flocks, and a mixture of these genera in the remaining two flocks. In the goat flocks, the pre-treatment infection levels of GIN were low compared to what was found in the sheep flocks. Still, in one flock, AR against BZ in Teladorsagia/Trichostrongylus was found. New strategies and recommendations to face the emerging AR situation in Rogaland County in order to limit the spread of resistant nematodes within and into other areas are urgently needed.
PMCID: PMC3378835  PMID: 22290446
8.  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.
PMCID: PMC3067700  PMID: 21177886
9.  Prevalence of Anaplasma phagocytophilum infection and effect on lamb growth 
A major challenge in sheep farming during the grazing season along the coast of south-western Norway is tick-borne fever (TBF) caused by the bacteria Anaplasma phagocytophilum that is transmitted by the tick Ixodes ricinus.
A study was carried out in 2007 and 2008 to examine the prevalence of A. phagocytophilum infection and effect on weaning weight in lambs. The study included 1208 lambs from farms in Sunndal Ram Circle in Møre and Romsdal County in Mid-Norway, where ticks are frequently observed. All lambs were blood sampled and serum was analyzed by an indirect fluorescent antibody assay (IFA) to determine an antibody status (positive or negative) to A. phagocytophilum infection. Weight and weight gain and possible effect of infection were analyzed using ANOVA and the MIXED procedure in SAS.
The overall prevalence of infection with A. phagocytophilum was 55%. A lower weaning weight of 3% (1.34 kg, p < 0.01) was estimated in lambs seropositive to an A. phagocytophilum infection compared to seronegative lambs at an average age of 137 days.
The results show that A. phagocytophilum infection has an effect on lamb weight gain. The study also support previous findings that A. phagocytophilum infection is widespread in areas where ticks are prevalent, even in flocks treated prophylactic with acaricides.
PMCID: PMC3117741  PMID: 21569524
10.  Worm control practice against gastro-intestinal parasites in Norwegian sheep and goat flocks 
Anthelmintic treatment is the most common way of controlling nematode infections in ruminants. However, several countries have reported anthelmintic resistance (AR), representing a limitation for sustainable small ruminant production. The knowledge regarding worm control management represents a baseline to develop a guideline for preventing AR. The aim of the present study was therefore to improve our knowledge about the worm control practices in small ruminant flocks in Norway.
A questionnaire survey regarding worm control practices was performed in small ruminant flocks in Norway. Flocks were selected from the three main areas of small ruminant farming, i.e. the coastal, inland and northern areas. A total of 825 questionnaires, comprising 587 sheep flocks (return rate of 51.3%) and 238 goat flocks (52.6%) were included.
The results indicated that visual appraisal of individual weight was the most common means of estimating the anthelmintic dose used in sheep (78.6%) and goat (85.1%) flocks. The mean yearly drenching rate in lambs and ewes were 2.5 ± 1.7 and 1.9 ± 1.1, respectively, whereas it was 1.0 (once a year) in goats. However, these figures were higher in sheep in the coastal area with a rate of 3.4 and 2.2 in lambs and ewes, respectively. Benzimidazoles were the predominant anthelmintic class used in sheep flocks (64.9% in 2007), whereas benzimidazoles and macrocyclic lactones were both equally used in dairy goat flocks. In the period of 2005-2007, 46.3% of the sheep flocks never changed the anthelmintic class. The dose and move strategy was practiced in 33.2% of the sheep flocks.
The present study showed that inaccurate weight calculation gives a risk of under-dosing in over 90% of the sheep and goat flocks in Norway. Taken together with a high treatment frequency in lambs, a lack of anthelmintic class rotation and the common use of a dose-and-move strategy, a real danger for development of anthelmintic resistance (AR) seems to exist in Norwegian sheep and goat flocks. This risk seems particularly high in coastal areas where high treatment frequencies in lambs were recorded.
PMCID: PMC3118134  PMID: 21569497
11.  Variant-specific and diminishing immune responses towards the highly variable MSP2(P44) outer membrane protein of Anaplasma phagocytophilum during persistent infection in lambs 
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the causative agent of Tick-Borne Fever in small ruminants and has been identified as the zoonotic agent of human granulocytic anaplasmosis. The Norwegian strains of the rickettsia are naturally persistent in lambs and represent a suitable experimental system for analysing the mechanisms of persistence. Variation of the outer membrane protein MSP2(P44) by recombination of variable pseudogene segments into an expression site is believed to play a key role in persistence of the organism. The goal of the present study was to analyse the dynamics of the immune response towards A. phagocytophilum and MSP2(P44) during persistent infection of lambs. Responses to the hypervariable region of MSP2(P44) were detected shortly after appearance of the respective variants in cyclic rickettsemic peaks, consistent with a process of antigenic variation. In addition, there was a diminishing antibody response to MSP2(P44) and to other A. phagocytophilum antigens overall with time of infection, that was not associated with clearance of the infection.
PMCID: PMC2815256  PMID: 19695712
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; immune evasion; tick borne fever; sheep diseases; zoonosis; antigenic variation
12.  A comparative study of clinical manifestations, haematological and serological responses after experimental infection with Anaplasma phagocytophilum in two Norwegian sheep breeds 
It has been questioned if the old native Norwegian sheep breed, Old Norse Sheep (also called Norwegian Feral Sheep), normally distributed on coastal areas where ticks are abundant, is more protected against tick-borne infections than other Norwegian breeds due to a continuously high selection pressure on pasture. The aim of the present study was to test this hypothesis in an experimental infection study.
Five-months-old lambs of two Norwegian sheep breeds, Norwegian White (NW) sheep and Old Norse (ON) sheep, were experimentally infected with a 16S rRNA genetic variant of Anaplasma phagocytophilum (similar to GenBank accession number M73220). The experiment was repeated for two subsequent years, 2008 and 2009, with the use of 16 lambs of each breed annually. Ten lambs of each breed were inoculated intravenously each year with 0.4 ml A. phagocytophilum-infected blood containing approximately 0.5 × 106 infected neutrophils/ml. Six lambs of each breed were used as uninfected controls. Half of the primary inoculated lambs in each breed were re-challenged with the same infectious dose at nine (2008) and twelve (2009) weeks after the first challenge. The clinical, haematological and serological responses to A. phagocytophilum infection were compared in the two sheep breeds.
The present study indicates a difference in fever response and infection rate between breeds of Norwegian sheep after experimental infection with A. phagocytophilum.
Although clinical response seems to be less in ON-lambs compared to NW-lambs, further studies including more animals are needed to evaluate if the ON-breed is more protected against tick-borne infections than other Norwegian breeds.
PMCID: PMC3042963  PMID: 21314927
13.  Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in Ixodes ricinus ticks collected from migratory birds in Southern Norway 
Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.) are the causative agent for Lyme borreliosis (LB), the most common tick-borne disease in the northern hemisphere. Birds are considered important in the global dispersal of ticks and tick-borne pathogens through their migration. The present study is the first description of B. burgdorferi prevalence and genotypes in Ixodes ricinus ticks feeding on birds during spring and autumn migration in Norway.
6538 migratory birds were captured and examined for ticks at Lista Bird Observatory during the spring and the autumn migration in 2008. 822 immature I. ricinus ticks were collected from 215 infested birds. Ticks were investigated for infection with B. burgdorferi s.l. by real-time PCR amplification of the 16S rRNA gene, and B. burgdorferi s.l. were thereafter genotyped by melting curve analysis after real-time PCR amplification of the hbb gene, or by direct sequencing of the PCR amplicon generated from the rrs (16S)-rrl (23S) intergenetic spacer.
B. burgdorferi s.l. were detected in 4.4% of the ticks. The most prevalent B. burgdorferi genospecies identified were B. garinii (77.8%), followed by B.valaisiana (11.1%), B. afzelii (8.3%) and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto (2.8%).
Infection rate in ticks and genospecies composition were similar in spring and autumn migration, however, the prevalence of ticks on birds was higher during spring migration. The study supports the notion that birds are important in the dispersal of ticks, and that they may be partly responsible for the heterogeneous distribution of B. burgdorferi s.l. in Europe.
PMCID: PMC2988791  PMID: 21054890
14.  A morphological and molecular study of Anaplasma phagocytophilum transmission events at the time of Ixodes ricinus tick bite 
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the causative agent of human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) in humans and tick-borne fever (TBF) in ruminants. The bacterium invades and replicates in phagocytes, especially in polymorphonuclear granulocytes.
In the present study, skin biopsies and ticks (Ixodes ricinus) were collected from tick feeding lesions on 38 grazing lambs between two and three weeks after access to pastures. The histopathological changes associated with tick bites and A. phagocytophilum infection, were described. In addition the skin biopsies were examined by immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, samples from blood, skin biopsies and ticks were examined by serology, PCR amplification of msp2 (p44), genotyping of rrs (16S rRNA) variants, and compared with the results obtained from histological and immunohistochemical investigations.
Tick bites were associated with chronic and hyperplastic inflammatory skin lesions in this study. A. phagocytophilum present in skin lesions were mainly associated with neutrophils and macrophages. Bacteria were occasionally observed in the Tunica media and Tunica adventitia of small vessels, but were rarely found in association with endothelial cells. PCR and genotyping of organisms present in blood, ticks and skin biopsies suggested a haematogenous and a local spread of organisms at the tick attachment sites.
The present study describes different aspects of A. phagocytophilum infection at the site of tick bite, and indicates that A. phagocytophilum rarely associates with endothelium during the early pathogenesis of infection.
PMCID: PMC2904780  PMID: 20565721
15.  Variant -and individual dependent nature of persistent Anaplasma phagocytophilum infection 
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is the causative agent of tick-borne fever in ruminants and human granulocytotropic anaplasmosis (HGA). The bacterium is able to survive for several months in immune-competent sheep by modifying important cellular and humoral defence mechanisms. Little is known about how different strains of A. phagocytophilum propagate in their natural hosts during persistent infection.
Two groups of five lambs were infected with each of two 16S rRNA gene variants of A. phagocytophilum, i.e. 16S variant 1 which is identical to GenBank no M73220 and 16S variant 2 which is identical to GenBank no AF336220, respectively. The lambs were infected intravenously and followed by blood sampling for six months. A. phagocytophilum infection in the peripheral blood was detected by absolute quantitative real-time PCR.
Both 16S rRNA gene variants of A. phagocytophilum established persistent infection for at least six months and showed cyclic bacteraemias, but variant 1 introduced more frequent periods of bacteraemia and higher number of organisms than 16S rRNA gene variant 2 in the peripheral blood.
Organisms were available from blood more or less constantly during the persistent infection and there were individual differences in cyclic activity of A. phagocytophilum in the infected animals. Two 16S rRNA gene variants of A. phagocytophilum show differences in cyclic activity during persistent infection in lambs.
PMCID: PMC2859769  PMID: 20398321
16.  Superinfection occurs in Anaplasma phagocytophilum infected sheep irrespective of infection phase and protection status 
Anaplasma phagocytophilum infection in domestic ruminants is widespread in the coastal areas of southern Norway. The bacteria may persist in mammalian hosts. Several genetic variants of A. phagocytophilum exist. In the present study, we investigate whether superinfection occurs in the acute and persistent phase of the infection.
Five-month-old lambs of the Norwegian Dala breed were experimentally infected with two 16S rRNA gene variants of A. phagocytophilum, i.e. A. phagocytophilum variant 1 (GenBank accession number M73220) and variant 2 (GenBank acc. no. AF336220). Eighteen lambs were used, two lambs in each group. Eight groups were experimentally inoculated with either variant 1 or 2 on day 0. Six of these groups were then challenged with the other variant on either days 7, 42 or 84, respectively. One group was left uninfected. The occurrence of A. phagocytophilum in blood samples was determined using semi-nested PCR analysis and gene sequencing. Specific antibodies were measured by an indirect immunofluorescence antibody assay (IFA).
A. phagocytophilum variant 1 and 2 differed significantly with regards to clinical reaction and cross-immunity in infected lambs. Both variants were found in the blood after challenge. However, variant 1 was detected most frequently.
The present experiment indicates that superinfection of different genotypes occurs during the acute as well as the persistent phase of an A. phagocytophilum infection, even in lambs protected against the challenged infection.
PMCID: PMC2772837  PMID: 19857248
17.  Dynamic Transmission of Numerous Anaplasma phagocytophilum Genotypes among Lambs in an Infected Sheep Flock in an Area of Anaplasmosis Endemicity▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2008;46(5):1686-1691.
The transmission dynamics of Anaplasma phagocytophilum strains circulating within juvenile members of a sheep flock grazing on an Ixodes ricinus-infested pasture in southern Norway were monitored. PCR-based detection of the bacterial p44 fragments in the blood of 16 lambs sampled weekly for 16 weeks following their release into pasture revealed rickettsemia in all animals, with an increasing proportion of infected animals as the survey progressed. Comparison of partial msp4 sequences obtained from infected blood samples revealed 24 distinct genotypes, some of which were repeatedly encountered, occurring in up to six sheep over a 14-week period, whereas others were observed only once. Individual sheep were infected by up to five distinct genotypes, with a specific genotype being encountered for between one and three consecutive weeks, and in some sheep, genotypes detected early in the study were also present in later samples. In general, detection of A. phagocytophilum by PCR correlated well with the observation of infected neutrophils in blood smears. Together these results reveal a previously unrecognized diversity of A. phagocytophilum strains simultaneously circulating within an infected population in an area of endemicity and are consistent with a remarkably dynamic transmission of strains among infected animals.
PMCID: PMC2395098  PMID: 18367562
18.  Outer Membrane Protein Sequence Variation in Lambs Experimentally Infected with Anaplasma phagocytophilum▿  
Infection and Immunity  2007;76(1):120-126.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum has long been known to cause tick-borne fever in ruminants and has been identified more recently as the causative agent of the emerging disease human granulocytic anaplasmosis. The related organism Anaplasma marginale uses gene conversion of the expression site for two major outer membrane proteins (OMPs) to generate extensive sequence and antigenic variation in these OMPs. This is thought to present a continuously varying repertoire of epitopes to the mammalian host and allow disease persistence. Recent genomic and structural data on human strains of A. phagocytophilum, together with animal studies in model systems, have implicated an orthologous OMP of A. phagocytophilum in a similar mechanism of variation. However, to date there has been little investigation of the mechanisms of antigenic variation or disease persistence in hosts naturally infected with field strains of A. phagocytophilum. Approximately 300,000 lambs in Norway suffer severe disease caused by A. phagocytophilum annually. We show here the persistent and cyclic nature of infection in these animals that is accompanied by loosely programmed sequence variation of the major OMP expression site in each rickettsemic peak. These data will allow analysis of interactions between A. phagocytophilum and the host immune system in naturally occurring persistent infections and provide an important comparison with enduring infections of cattle caused by A. marginale.
PMCID: PMC2223638  PMID: 17967854
19.  Structure of the Expression Site Reveals Global Diversity in MSP2 (P44) Variants in Anaplasma phagocytophilum▿ †  
Infection and Immunity  2006;74(11):6429-6437.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum, a recently reclassified bacteria in the order Rickettsiales, infects many different animal species and causes an emerging tick-borne disease of humans. The genome contains a large number of related genes and gene fragments encoding partial or apparently full-length outer membrane protein MSP2 (P44). Previous data using strains isolated from humans in the United States suggest that antigenic diversity results from RecF-mediated conversion of a single MSP2 (P44) expression site by partially homologous donor sequences. However, whether similar mechanisms operate in naturally infected animal species and the extent of global diversity in MSP2 (P44) are unknown. We analyzed the structure and diversity of the MSP2 (P44) expression site in strains derived from the United States and Europe and from infections of different animal species, including wildlife reservoirs. The results show that a syntenic expression site is present in all strains of A. phagocytophilum investigated. This genomic locus contained diverse MSP2 (P44) variants in all infected animals sampled, and variants also differed at different time points during infection. Although similar variants were found among different populations of U.S. origin, there was little sequence identity between U.S. strain variants (including genomic copies from a completely sequenced U.S. strain) and expression site variants infecting sheep and dogs in Norway and Sweden. Finally, the possibility that combinatorial mechanisms can generate additional diversity beyond the basic donor sequence repertoire is supported by the observation of shared sequence blocks throughout the MSP2 (P44) hypervariable region in reservoir hosts. These data suggest similar genetic mechanisms for A. phagocytophilum variation in all hosts but worldwide diversity of the MSP2 (P44) outer membrane protein.
PMCID: PMC1695497  PMID: 16966408
20.  Occurrence of haemolytic Mannheimia spp. in apparently healthy sheep in Norway 
The occurrence of Mannheimia species in healthy sheep has only been investigated to a very limited extend since the genus and its five named species were established. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the occurrence of haemolytic Mannheimia species in apparently healthy sheep originating from four sheep flocks in South-Western Norway.
Typical β-haemolytic Pasteurellaceae were isolated from nasal swabs and subsequently subjected to bacteriological examination. A total of 57 Mannheimia isolates were obtained in pure culture. All isolates were genotyped by amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLP) analysis and compared to six reference strains. The 16S rRNA gene sequences of two isolates were also determined.
β-haemolytic Mannheimia species were isolated from 24% to 64% of the sheep in the four flocks. A total of 26 haemolytic M. ruminalis-like strains were isolated among which, a considerable genetic diversity was found. Eighteen M. glucosida isolates were obtained from three flocks, whereas M. haemolytica was only isolated from two flocks, 16 of them being from only one of the flocks.
We demonstrate that a relatively high number of apparently healthy sheep in Norway seem to carry the potentially pathogenic M. haemolytica and M. glucosida in the upper respiratory tract. An unexpectedly high number of haemolytic M. ruminalis-like organisms were also obtained in all four flocks. The usually non-haemolytic M. ruminalis are typically isolated from healthy ruminants. The significance of β-haemolytic M. ruminalis-like organisms is unknown and should be investigated in a future study.
PMCID: PMC1635413  PMID: 17076903
21.  Occurrence of haemolytic Mannheimia spp. in apparently healthy sheep in Norway 
The occurrence of Mannheimia species in healthy sheep has only been investigated to a very limited extend since the genus and its five named species were established. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the occurrence of haemolytic Mannheimia species in apparently healthy sheep originating from four sheep flocks in South-Western Norway.
Typical β-haemolytic Pasteurellaceae were isolated from nasal swabs and subsequently subjected to bacteriological examination. A total of 57 Mannheimia isolates were obtained in pure culture. All isolates were genotyped by amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLP) analysis and compared to six reference strains. The 16S rRNA gene sequences of two isolates were also determined.
β-haemolytic Mannheimia species were isolated from 24% to 64% of the sheep in the four flocks. A total of 26 haemolytic M. ruminalis-like strains were isolated among which, a considerable genetic diversity was found. Eighteen M. glucosida isolates were obtained from three flocks, whereas M. haemolytica was only isolated from two flocks, 16 of them being from only one of the flocks.
We demonstrate that a relatively high number of apparently healthy sheep in Norway seem to carry the potentially pathogenic M. haemolytica and M. glucosida in the upper respiratory tract. An unexpectedly high number of haemolytic M. ruminalis-like organisms were also obtained in all four flocks. The usually non-haemolytic M. ruminalis are typically isolated from healthy ruminants. The significance of β-haemolytic M. ruminalis-like organisms is unknown and should be investigated in a future study.
PMCID: PMC1949873
22.  Unidirectional Suppression of Anaplasma phagocytophilum Genotypes in Infected Lambs 
Five-month-old lambs were simultaneously infected with different doses of two 16S rRNA genetic variants of Anaplasma phagocytophilum and thereafter followed for clinical observation and blood sampling. The result of the study indicates a unidirectional suppression of genotypes in infected lambs, at least during a certain period of an A. phagocytophilum infection.
PMCID: PMC1317076  PMID: 16339070
23.  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.
PMCID: PMC1081214  PMID: 15750101
24.  Differences in Clinical Manifestations and Hematological and Serological Responses after Experimental Infection with Genetic Variants of Anaplasma phagocytophilum in Sheep 
Five-month-old lambs were experimentally infected with two 16S rRNA genetic variants of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, variants 1 (GenBank accession no. M73220) and 2 (GenBank accession no. AF336220). Additional sequencing of the groESL heat shock operon gene indicated that these variants differ in three nucleotides at positions 782, 824, and 890. The variants were obtained by blood sampling of A. phagocytophilum-infected lambs from one sheep flock in Norway and were stored at −70°C with 10% dimethyl sulfoxide as a cryoprotectant before being inoculated intravenously into susceptible lambs. The infectious blood contained, per ml, approximately 0.5 × 106 neutrophils infected with either of the variants. Six weeks after the primary inoculation, the lambs were challenged with the same infectious dose of the heterologous variant. The results of the study indicate a marked difference in clinical manifestation, neutropenia, antibody response, and cross-protection after experimental infection with the two variants of A. phagocytophilum.
PMCID: PMC164248  PMID: 12853406
25.  Identification of Anaplasma phagocytophila (Formerly Ehrlichia phagocytophila) Variants in Blood from Sheep in Norway 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2002;40(9):3192-3197.
A total of 41 blood samples were collected from 40 Anaplasma phagocytophila-infected sheep in 11 sheep flocks from four different counties of southern Norway. The presence and nature of the Anaplasma species were identified by microscopic detection of morulae, PCR, reverse line blot hybridization, and 16S rRNA gene sequencing. A. phagocytophila was identified in all of the samples, and sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene revealed the presence of four variants of A. phagocytophila. Two of these variants have been described before, but two were newly identified 16S rRNA variants of this species. A. phagocytophila variant 1 was found in nine flocks, A. phagocytophila variant 2 was found in four flocks, the A. phagocytophila prototype was found in two flocks, and A. phagocytophila variant 5 was found in one flock. In two flocks, some sheep were infected with A. phagocytophila variant 1, whereas others were infected with A. phagocytophila variant 2, and in three animals a double infection with two variants was registered. Analyses of the blood samples revealed that blood from sheep infected with A. phagocytophila variant 2 contained nearly twice as many neutrophils and eight times as many Anaplasma-infected neutrophils as blood from sheep infected with the A. phagocytophila variant 1. Furthermore, only 43% of the A. phagocytophila variant 2-infected sheep displayed antibody responses in an immune fluorescence assay, whereas 93% of the sheep with the A. phagocytophila variant 1-infected sheep were seropositive.
PMCID: PMC130712  PMID: 12202552

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