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1.  Analysis of the Population Structure of Anaplasma phagocytophilum Using Multilocus Sequence Typing 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93725.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is a Gram-negative obligate intracellular bacterium that replicates in neutrophils. It is transmitted via tick-bite and causes febrile disease in humans and animals. Human granulocytic anaplasmosis is regarded as an emerging infectious disease in North America, Europe and Asia. However, although increasingly detected, it is still rare in Europe. Clinically apparent A. phagocytophilum infections in animals are mainly found in horses, dogs, cats, sheep and cattle. Evidence from cross-infection experiments that A. phagocytophilum isolates of distinct host origin are not uniformly infectious for heterologous hosts has led to several approaches of molecular strain characterization. Unfortunately, the results of these studies are not always easily comparable, because different gene regions and fragment lengths were investigated. Multilocus sequence typing is a widely accepted method for molecular characterization of bacteria. We here provide for the first time a universal typing method that is easily transferable between different laboratories. We validated our approach on an unprecedented large data set of almost 400 A. phagocytophilum strains from humans and animals mostly from Europe. The typability was 74% (284/383). One major clonal complex containing 177 strains was detected. However, 54% (49/90) of the sequence types were not part of a clonal complex indicating that the population structure of A. phagocytophilum is probably semiclonal. All strains from humans, dogs and horses from Europe belonged to the same clonal complex. As canine and equine granulocytic anaplasmosis occurs frequently in Europe, human granulocytic anaplasmosis is likely to be underdiagnosed in Europe. Further, wild boars and hedgehogs may serve as reservoir hosts of the disease in humans and domestic animals in Europe, because their strains belonged to the same clonal complex. In contrast, as they were only distantly related, roe deer, voles and shrews are unlikely to harbor A. phagocytophilum strains infectious for humans, domestic or farm animals.
PMCID: PMC3974813  PMID: 24699849
2.  Anaplasma phagocytophilum strains from voles and shrews exhibit specific ankA gene sequences 
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is a Gram-negative bacterium that replicates obligate intracellularly in neutrophils. It is transmitted by Ixodes spp. ticks and causes acute febrile disease in humans, dogs, horses, cats, and livestock. Because A. phagocytophilum is not transmitted transovarially in Ixodes spp., it is thought to depend on reservoir hosts to complete its life cycle. In Europe, A. phagocytophilum was detected in roe deer, red deer, wild boars, and small mammals. In contrast to roe deer, red deer and wild boars have been considered as reservoir hosts for granulocytic anaplasmosis in humans, dogs, and horses according to groESL- and ankA-based genotyping. A. phagocytophilum variants infecting small mammals in Europe have not been characterized extensively to date.
We amplified the total ankA open reading frames of 27 strains from voles and shrews. The analysis revealed that they harboured A. phagocytophilum strains that belonged to a distinct newly described ankA gene cluster. Further, we provide evidence that the heterogeneity of ankA gene sequences might have arisen via recombination.
Based on ankA-based genotyping voles and shrews are unlikely reservoir hosts for granulocytic anaplasmosis in humans, dogs, horses, and livestock in Europe.
PMCID: PMC4220824  PMID: 24283328
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Voles; Shrews; Genotyping; ankA gene; Recombination
3.  Congenital infection with Anaplasma phagocytophilum in a calf in northern Germany 
Anaplasma phagocytophilum is a Gram-negative, obligate intracellular tick-transmitted bacterium that replicates in neutrophils. It causes tick-borne fever (TBF) in sheep and cattle, but also elicits febrile disease in humans as well as in other domestic animals such as dogs, horses, and cats. Although increasingly recognized in Europe, the first laboratory-confirmed case of TBF in cattle from Germany has been published only recently. We here present the unusual case of an intrauterine transmission of A. phagocytophilum in a calf from northern Germany. To our knowledge, this is the first report of such an event occurring under field conditions in cattle.
PMCID: PMC3648351  PMID: 23634938
Anaplasma phagocytophilum; Intrauterine infection; Tick-borne fever; Cattle; Germany
4.  Contact Sensitizers Induce Skin Inflammation via ROS Production and Hyaluronic Acid Degradation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41340.
Allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) represents a severe health problem with increasing worldwide prevalence. It is a T cell-mediated skin disease induced by protein-reactive organic and inorganic chemicals. A key feature of contact allergens is their ability to trigger an innate immune response that leads to skin inflammation. Previous evidence from the mouse contact hypersensitivity (CHS) model suggests a role for endogenous activators of innate immune signaling. Here, we analyzed the role of contact sensitizer induced ROS production and concomitant changes in hyaluronic acid metabolism on CHS responses.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We analyzed in vitro and in vivo ROS production using fluorescent ROS detection reagents. HA fragmentation was determined by gel electrophoresis. The influence of blocking ROS production and HA degradation by antioxidants, hyaluronidase-inhibitor or p38 MAPK inhibitor was analyzed in the murine CHS model. Here, we demonstrate that organic contact sensitizers induce production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and a concomitant breakdown of the extracellular matrix (ECM) component hyaluronic acid (HA) to pro-inflammatory low molecular weight fragments in the skin. Importantly, inhibition of either ROS-mediated or enzymatic HA breakdown prevents sensitization as well as elicitation of CHS.
These data identify an indirect mechanism of contact sensitizer induced innate inflammatory signaling involving the breakdown of the ECM and generation of endogenous danger signals. Our findings suggest a beneficial role for anti-oxidants and hyaluronidase inhibitors in prevention and treatment of ACD.
PMCID: PMC3405137  PMID: 22848468
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.
PMCID: PMC3067700  PMID: 21177886
6.  The IFN-γ-Inducible GTPase, Irga6, Protects Mice against Toxoplasma gondii but Not against Plasmodium berghei and Some Other Intracellular Pathogens 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20568.
Clearance of infection with intracellular pathogens in mice involves interferon-regulated GTPases of the IRG protein family. Experiments with mice genetically deficient in members of this family such as Irgm1(LRG-47), Irgm3(IGTP), and Irgd(IRG-47) has revealed a critical role in microbial clearance, especially for Toxoplasma gondii. The in vivo role of another member of this family, Irga6 (IIGP, IIGP1) has been studied in less detail. We investigated the susceptibility of two independently generated mouse strains deficient in Irga6 to in vivo infection with T. gondii, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Leishmania mexicana, L. major, Listeria monocytogenes, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Plasmodium berghei. Compared with wild-type mice, mice deficient in Irga6 showed increased susceptibility to oral and intraperitoneal infection with T. gondii but not to infection with the other organisms. Surprisingly, infection of Irga6-deficient mice with the related apicomplexan parasite, P. berghei, did not result in increased replication in the liver stage and no Irga6 (or any other IRG protein) was detected at the parasitophorous vacuole membrane in IFN-γ-induced wild-type cells infected with P. berghei in vitro. Susceptibility to infection with T. gondii was associated with increased mortality and reduced time to death, increased numbers of inflammatory foci in the brains and elevated parasite loads in brains of infected Irga6-deficient mice. In vitro, Irga6-deficient macrophages and fibroblasts stimulated with IFN-γ were defective in controlling parasite replication. Taken together, our results implicate Irga6 in the control of infection with T. gondii and further highlight the importance of the IRG system for resistance to this pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3117789  PMID: 21698150
7.  Detection of “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” in Two Patients with Severe Febrile Illnesses: Evidence for a European Sequence Variant▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2010;48(7):2630-2635.
Recently, a new genus of Anaplasmataceae termed “Candidatus Neoehrlichia” was discovered in ticks and rodents. Here, we report on two patients who suffered from febrile bacteremia due to “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” associated with thrombotic or hemorrhagic events. 16S rRNA and groEL gene sequencing provided evidence of three groups of sequence variants.
PMCID: PMC2897504  PMID: 20519481
8.  Impairment of Gamma Interferon Signaling in Human Neutrophils Infected with Anaplasma phagocytophilum▿  
Infection and Immunity  2009;78(1):358-363.
Anaplasma phagocytophilum, the causative agent of tick-borne human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA), is an intracellular bacterium which survives and multiplies inside polymorphonuclear neutrophil granulocytes (PMN). Increased bacterial burden in gamma interferon (IFN-γ)-deficient mice suggested a major role of IFN-γ in the control of A. phagocytophilum. Here we investigated whether infection of human PMN with A. phagocytophilum impairs IFN-γ signaling thus facilitating intracellular survival of the bacterium. The secretion of the IFN-γ-inducible chemokines IP-10/CXCL10 and MIG/CXCL9 was markedly inhibited in infected neutrophils. Molecular analyses revealed that, compared to uninfected PMN, A. phagocytophilum decreased the expression of the IFN-γ receptor α-chain CD119, diminished the IFN-γ-induced phosphorylation of STAT1, and enhanced the expression of SOCS1 and SOCS3 in PMN. Since IFN-γ activates various antibacterial effector mechanisms of PMN, the impaired IFN-γ signaling in infected cells likely contributes to the survival of A. phagocytophilum inside PMN and to HGA disease development.
PMCID: PMC2798180  PMID: 19858302
10.  Innate Immune Response to Anaplasma phagocytophilum Contributes to Hepatic Injury 
Clinical and Vaccine Immunology  2006;13(7):806-809.
In mice, Anaplasma phagocytophilum control is independent of phagocyte oxidase (phox), inducible NO synthase (NOS2), tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and MyD88 Toll-like receptor signaling. We show that despite evasion of these host responses, phox, NOS2, TNF, and MyD88 are activated and contribute to inflammation and hepatic injury more than A. phagocytophilum itself.
PMCID: PMC1489578  PMID: 16829620
11.  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
12.  High Diversity of ankA Sequences of Anaplasma phagocytophilum among Ixodes ricinus Ticks in Germany 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2003;41(11):5033-5040.
In Germany humans with acute granulocytic ehrlichiosis have not yet been described. Here, we characterized three different genes of Anaplasma phagocytophilum strains infecting German Ixodes ricinus ticks in order to test whether they differ from strains in other European countries and the United States. A total of 1,022 I. ricinus ticks were investigated for infection with A. phagocytophilum by nested PCR and sequence analysis. Forty-two (4.1%) ticks were infected. For all positive ticks, parts of the 16S rRNA and groESL genes were sequenced. The complete coding sequence of the ankA gene could be determined in 24 samples. The 16S rRNA and groESL gene sequences were as much as 100% identical to known sequences. Fifteen ankA sequences were ≥99.37% identical to sequences derived from humans with granulocytic ehrlichiosis in Europe and from a horse with granulocytic ehrlichiosis in Germany. Thus, German I. ricinus ticks most likely harbor A. phagocytophilum strains that can cause disease in humans. Nine additional sequences were clearly different from known ankA sequences. Because these newly described sequences have never been obtained from diseased humans or animals, their biological significance is currently unknown. Based on this unexpected sequence heterogeneity, we propose to use the ankA gene for further phylogenetic analyses of A. phagocytophilum and to investigate the biology and pathogenicity of strains that differ in the ankA gene.
PMCID: PMC262509  PMID: 14605135

Results 1-12 (12)