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1.  Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Related to Leptospirosis among Urban Slum Residents in Brazil 
Leptospirosis disproportionately affects residents of urban slums. To understand the knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding leptospirosis, we conducted a cross-sectional study among residents of an urban slum community in Salvador, Brazil. Of the 257 residents who were interviewed, 225 (90%) were aware of leptospirosis and more than two-thirds of respondents correctly identified the modes of disease transmission and ways to reduce exposure. However, study participants who performed risk activities such as cleaning open sewers had limited access to protective clothing such as boots (33%) or gloves (35%). Almost all respondents performed at least one activity to prevent household rat infestation, which often included use of an illegal poison. Our findings support the need for interventions targeted at the individual and household levels to reduce risk of leptospirosis until large-scale structural interventions are available to residents of urban slum communities.
PMCID: PMC3583330  PMID: 23269657
2.  Characteristics of the Human Host Have Little Influence on Which Local Schistosoma mansoni Populations Are Acquired 
Brazil remains the country in the Americas with the highest prevalence of schistosomiasis. A combination of control efforts and development, however, has sharply reduced its intensity and distribution. The acquisition of specific schistosome populations may be dependent on host characteristics such as sex, age, geography, work, habits and culture. How these and other host characteristics align with parasite subpopulations may guide approaches to improve control.
A cohort of more than 90% of the residents in two rural communities in Brazil participated in an epidemiologic survey of demographic, socio-economic and behavioral characteristics. The variables sex, age, intensity of infection, socio-economic index, % lifetime spent on site, previous infection, and trips outside the district were used to group parasites infecting individuals. Schistosoma mansoni infection status was determined by examination of stools submitted on 3 different days. The aggregate of eggs collected from the whole stool was used to determine degree of population differentiation from allele frequencies for 15 microsatellites.
Infection prevalence was 41% for these communities, and the epidemiologic characteristics were similar to many of the endemic areas of Brazil and the world. Parasite population structuring was observed between the two communities (Jost's D 0.046, CI95% 0.042–0.051), although separated by only 8 km and connected by a highway. No structuring was observed when infected individuals were stratified by host's biologic, demographic or epidemiologic characteristics. Those most heavily infected best reflected the communities' overall parasite diversity. The lack of differentiation within villages suggests that individuals are likely to get infected at the same sites or that the same parasite multilocus genotypes can be found at most sites. The geographic structuring between villages and the lack of structuring by age of the host further supports the impression of a population little affected by migration or drift.
Author Summary
Schistosomiasis is one of the world's most important parasitic infections. Its elimination has proved difficult even in countries such as Brazil where access to treatment is readily available. Infection is the result of human contact with surface water where there are infected snails, so that human biology and habits may bring different individuals in contact with different groups of parasites. Identification of schistosome subpopulations may assist understanding transmission patterns and guide control efforts. We compared microsatellite allele frequencies from all of the infections in 2 small villages and determined that the movement of parasites between them was limited. Individual infections were distinct composites of parasites, but if infected humans were grouped by demographic and epidemiologic characteristics, there was no evidence that specific parasite subpopulations were being selected in these types of hosts. Infections were also not differentiated when stratified by host's age indicating that the populations were stable over time. Since the infection cycle requires human fecal contamination of water, local human behavior can to some degree be inferred from the patterns of schistosome subpopulation distribution.
PMCID: PMC3854954  PMID: 24340115
3.  Genetic Population Structure of Cercariae from an Urban Foci of Schistosoma mansoni, Brazil 
Rapid urbanization in Brazil has meant that many persons from rural areas where Schistosoma mansoni is endemic have migrated to cities. Discovery of a focus of active transmission in the city of Salvador prompted a citywide survey for active and potential transmission sites. Cercariae shed from infected snails collected from four locations were used to determine how these samples were related and if they were representative of the parasite population infecting humans. Each cercarial collection was greatly differentiated from the others, and diversity was significantly lower when compared with eggs from natural human infections in one site. Egg samples collected 7 years apart in one neighborhood showed little differentiation (Jost's D = 0.01–0.03). Given the clonal nature of parasite reproduction in the snail host and the short-term acquisition of parasites, cercariae from collections at one time point are unlikely to be representative of the diversity in the human population.
PMCID: PMC3516259  PMID: 22949518
4.  Urban slum structure: integrating socioeconomic and land cover data to model slum evolution in Salvador, Brazil 
The expansion of urban slums is a key challenge for public and social policy in the 21st century. The heterogeneous and dynamic nature of slum communities limits the use of rigid slum definitions. A systematic and flexible approach to characterize, delineate and model urban slum structure at an operational resolution is essential to plan, deploy, and monitor interventions at the local and national level.
We modeled the multi-dimensional structure of urban slums in the city of Salvador, a city of 3 million inhabitants in Brazil, by integrating census-derived socioeconomic variables and remotely-sensed land cover variables. We assessed the correlation between the two sets of variables using canonical correlation analysis, identified land cover proxies for the socioeconomic variables, and produced an integrated map of deprivation in Salvador at 30 m × 30 m resolution.
The canonical analysis identified three significant ordination axes that described the structure of Salvador census tracts according to land cover and socioeconomic features. The first canonical axis captured a gradient from crowded, low-income communities with corrugated roof housing to higher-income communities. The second canonical axis discriminated among socioeconomic variables characterizing the most marginalized census tracts, those without access to sanitation or piped water. The third canonical axis accounted for the least amount of variation, but discriminated between high-income areas with white-painted or tiled roofs from lower-income areas.
Our approach captures the socioeconomic and land cover heterogeneity within and between slum settlements and identifies the most marginalized communities in a large, complex urban setting. These findings indicate that changes in the canonical scores for slum areas can be used to track their evolution and to monitor the impact of development programs such as slum upgrading.
PMCID: PMC3924348  PMID: 24138776
5.  Cytokine Response Signatures in Disease Progression and Development of Severe Clinical Outcomes for Leptospirosis 
The role of the immune response in influencing leptospirosis clinical outcomes is not yet well understood. We hypothesized that acute-phase serum cytokine responses may play a role in disease progression, risk for death, and severe pulmonary hemorrhage syndrome (SPHS).
Methodology/Principal Findings
We performed a case-control study design to compare cytokine profiles in patients with mild and severe forms of leptospirosis. Among patients hospitalized with severe disease, we compared those with fatal and nonfatal outcomes. During active outpatient and hospital-based surveillance we prospectively enrolled 172 patients, 23 with mild disease (outpatient) and 149 with severe leptospirosis (hospitalized). Circulating concentrations of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines at the time of patient presentation were measured using a multiplex bead array assay. Concentrations of IL-1β, IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-17A, and TNF-α were significantly higher (P<0.05) in severe disease compared to mild disease. Among severe patients, levels of IL-6 (P<0.001), IL-8 (P = 0.0049) and IL-10 (P<0.001), were higher in fatal compared to non-fatal cases. High levels of IL-6 and IL-10 were independently associated (P<0.05) with case fatality after adjustment for age and days of symptoms. IL-6 levels were higher (P = 0.0519) among fatal cases who developed SPHS than among who did not.
This study shows that severe cases of leptospirosis are differentiated from mild disease by a “cytokine storm” process, and that IL-6 and IL-10 may play an immunopathogenic role in the development of life-threatening outcomes in human leptospirosis.
Author Summary
Leptospirosis is a tropical bacterial disease that is transmitted to humans from infected animals. Leptospirosis symptoms can range from mild fever to fatal disease forms, such as massive bleeding into the lungs, called Severe Pulmonary Hemorrhage Syndrome (SPHS). It is not known what determines the severity of leptospirosis, but we hypothesized that it may be influenced by differences in the type and concentration of signaling proteins called cytokines that are produced by the immune system in response to infection. We collected blood from patients with mild and severe leptospirosis, and compared the concentration of eight different cytokines circulating in the blood. We found that patients with severe leptospirosis had higher levels of most cytokines. Among patients who had severe forms, higher levels of specific cytokines called IL-6 and IL-8 were predictive of death even after statistical adjustment for age and number of days of symptoms prior to hospitalization. IL-6 was higher in patients who died from SPHS compared to those who died of other leptospirosis complications. This knowledge suggests that severe forms of leptospirosis may be due to a specific kind of immune response, which may lead to targeted therapies to reduce the impact of this disease.
PMCID: PMC3777885  PMID: 24069500
6.  Schistosoma mansoni population structure and persistence after praziquantel treatment in two villages of Bahia, Brazil 
International journal for parasitology  2011;41(10):1093-1099.
Praziquantel has been used to treat schistosome infections since 1979 and currently is the only chemotherapeutic agent in production for this purpose, raising concerns about the potential for the emergence of drug resistance. In practice, 10–20% of infected patients will continue to excrete eggs after treatment. It is not understood to what degree this represents selection of a resistant population or incomplete elimination due to the presence of immature worms at the time of treatment. We used a population genetics approach to test whether or not persistent Schistosoma mansoni parasites were drawn from the same population as susceptible parasites. In this study, stool samples were collected from 96% of individuals in two small Brazilian communities (populations 482 and 367) and examined for S. mansoni eggs. The combined prevalence of S. mansoni infections in the villages was 41%. Total egg DNA was extracted from each sample and was genotyped at 15 microsatellite markers. Day-to-day variation of the infrapopulation from an individual human host was low (median differentiation using Jost’s D = 0.010), so that a single stool was representative of the genotypes present in stool eggs, at least in the short term. Average pairwise analysis of D among all pre-treatment infrapopulations suggested moderate differentiation (mean D = 0.082 and 0.122 for the two villages), whereas the pre-treatment component population differentiation between the two communities was 0.047. The differentiation of the component population remaining after treatment from the fully susceptible component population was low (mean D = 0.007 and 0.020 for the two villages), suggesting that the persistent parasites were not selected by praziquantel treatment. We will continue to follow these communities for evidence of selection or changes in population structure.
PMCID: PMC3155667  PMID: 21784077
Praziquantel; Resistance; Microsatellite; Population genetics; Sampling; Genetic differentiation; Selection
7.  Surgery for Valvular Heart Disease: A Population-Based Study in a Brazilian Urban Center 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37855.
In middle income countries, the burden of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) remains high, but the prevalence of other heart valve diseases may rise as the population life expectancy increases. Here, we compared population-based data on surgical procedures to assess the relative importance of causes of heart valve disease in Salvador, Brazil.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Medical charts of patients who underwent surgery for valvular heart disease from January 2002–December 2005 were reviewed. Incidence of surgery for valvular heart disease was calculated. Logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with in-hospital death following surgery. The most common etiologies for valvular dysfunction in 491 valvular heart surgery patients were RHD (60.3%), degenerative valve disease (15.3%), and endocarditis (4.5%). Mean annual incidence for surgeries due to any valvular heart diseases, RHD, and degenerative valvular disease were 5.02, 3.03, and 0.77 per 100,000 population, respectively. Incidence of surgery due to RHD was highest in young adults; procedures were predominantly paid by the public health sector. In contrast, the incidence of surgery due to degenerative valvular disease was highest among those older than 60 years of age; procedures were mostly paid by the private sector. The overall in-hospital case-fatality ratio was 11.9%. Independent factors associated with death included increase in age (odds ratio: 1.04 per year of age; 95% confidence interval: 1.02–1.06), endocarditis (6.35; 1.92–21.04), multiple valve operative procedures (4.35; 2.12–8.95), and prior heart valve surgery (2.49; 1.05–5.87).
RHD remains the main cause for valvular heart surgery in Salvador, which primarily affects young adults without private health insurance. In contrast, surgery due to degenerative valvular disease primarily impacts the elderly with private health insurance. Strategies to reduce the burden of valvular heart disease will need to address the disparate factors that contribute to RHD as well as degenerative valve disease.
PMCID: PMC3362603  PMID: 22666401
8.  Detection and Quantification of Leptospira interrogans in Hamster and Rat Kidney Samples: Immunofluorescent Imprints versus Real-time PCR 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e32712.
A major limitation in the clinical management and experimental research of leptospirosis is the poor performance of the available methods for the direct detection of leptospires. In this study, we compared real-time PCR (qPCR), targeting the lipL32 gene, with the immunofluorescent imprint method (IM) for the detection and quantification of leptospires in kidney samples from the rat and hamster experimental models of leptospirosis. Using a virulent strain of Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni, a chronic infection was established in the rat model, which were euthanized 28 days post-infection, while the hamster model simulated an acute infection and the hamsters were euthanized eight days after inoculation. Leptospires in the kidney samples were detected using culture isolation, qPCR and the IM, and quantified using qPCR and the IM. In both the acute and chronic infection models, the correlation between quantification by qPCR and the IM was found to be positive and statistically significant (P<0.05). Therefore, this study demonstrates that the IM is a viable alternative for not only the detection but also the quantification of leptospires, particularly when the use of qPCR is not feasible.
PMCID: PMC3290571  PMID: 22393440
9.  Serotype Distribution and Antimicrobial Resistance of Streptococcus pneumoniae prior to Introduction of the 10-Valent Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine in Brazil, 2000-2007 
Vaccine  2010;29(6):1139-1144.
This study describes the serotype distribution and antibiotic resistance patterns among 397 S. pneumoniae meningitis case isolates recovered in Salvador, Brazil, during the period of 2000-2007, before introduction of the 10-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.
The active hospital-based surveillance showed a decline in the annual incidence rates of pneumococcal meningitis during the period of study, from 1.12 cases to 0.83 cases/100,000 persons for all age groups (P <0.001), with an overall case-fatality rate of 28.6 % (113 of 395) for all patients and 41.9% (57 of 136) for those <5 years of age. Serotypes 14 (n= 55; 13.9%), 3 (n= 32; 8.1 %), 23F (n=32; 8.1 %), 19F (n=31; 7.8%), 6B (n=30; 7.6%), 18C (n=28; 7.1 %), and 6A (n=20; 5%) were the most prevalent serotypes. In patients < 5 years the estimated projected coverage of 7-, 10- and 13-valent conjugate vaccines was 74.3%, 75.7% and 83.1%, respectively. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing revealed that 22.1% (n=88) of isolates were non-susceptible to penicillin, 56% were non-susceptible to trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, and 29.6% were non-susceptible to tetracycline. Nonsusceptibility to penicillin and cefotaxime was detected solely among serotype 14 isolates (n=4; 1%). This study provides an important baseline to assess the impact of conjugate vaccine implantation on the epidemiology of meningitis due to Streptococcus pneumoniae in Salvador, Brazil.
PMCID: PMC3026083  PMID: 21182994
Streptococcus pneumoniae; Vaccine; Antimicrobial resistance; Meningitis; Children
The Journal of infectious diseases  2010;202(10):1577-1584.
Following introduction of Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) conjugate vaccines, meningitis caused by serotypes other than Hib has gained importance. We conducted active hospital-based surveillance for meningitis over an 11-year period in Salvador, Brazil. H. influenzae isolates were serotyped and analyzed by PCR, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and DNA sequencing to identify strains with a specific deletion (IS1016) in the bexA gene (IS1016-bexA). We identified 43 meningitis cases caused by non-type b H. influenzae: 28 (65%) were caused by type a (Hia), 9 (21%) by non-capsulated strains and 3 (7%) each by types e and f. Hia isolates clustered in two clonal groups; clonal group A strains (n=9) had the IS1016-bexA deletion. Among children <5 years, meningitis caused by Hia from clonal group A had higher case-fatality than clonal group B. Despite small numbers, these results indicate that the presence of IS1016-bexA deletion is associated with enhanced virulence in non-type b H. influenzae.
PMCID: PMC2957550  PMID: 20932170
Haemophilus influenzae; non-type b H. influenzae; meningitis; Hib conjugate vaccine; virulence; IS1016-bexA deletion; molecular epidemiology
11.  Dengue hemorrhagic fever is associated with polymorphisms in JAK1 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2010;18(11):1221-1227.
To identify genes associated with the clinical presentation of dengue, 50 cases of probable or possible dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), 236 dengue fever (DF), and 236 asymptomatic infections were genotyped for 593 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 56 genes across the type 1 interferon (IFN) response pathway as well as other important candidate genes. By single locus analysis comparing DHF with DF, 11 of the 51 markers with P<0.05 were in the JAK1 gene. Five markers were significantly associated by false discovery rate criteria (q<0.20 when P<6 × 10−4). The JAK1 SNPs showed differential distribution by ethnicity and ancestry consistent with epidemiologic observations in the Americas. The association remained significant after controlling for ancestry and income. No association was observed with markers in the gene encoding CD209 (DC-SIGN). An association between DHF and JAK1 polymorphisms is in agreement with expression profiles showing generalized decreased type 1 IFN-stimulated gene expression in these patients.
PMCID: PMC2950898  PMID: 20588308
flavivirus; population structure; interferon; genetic association; Brazil
12.  Correction: Collaborative Teaching and Learning: A Model for Building Capacity and Partnerships to Address NTDs 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2011;5(8):10.1371/annotation/d33a8e45-4a41-49c7-81b1-1355a4c28a81.
PMCID: PMC3155473
13.  Heterologous expression of pathogen-specific genes ligA and ligB in the saprophyte Leptospira biflexa confers enhanced adhesion to cultured cells and fibronectin 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:129.
In comparison to other bacterial pathogens, our knowledge of the molecular basis of the pathogenesis of leptospirosis is extremely limited. An improved understanding of leptospiral pathogenetic mechanisms requires reliable tools for functional genetic analysis. Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (Lig) proteins are surface proteins found in pathogenic Leptospira, but not in saprophytes. Here, we describe a system for heterologous expression of the Leptospira interrogans genes ligA and ligB in the saprophyte Leptospira biflexa serovar Patoc.
The genes encoding LigA and LigB under the control of a constitutive spirochaetal promoter were inserted into the L. biflexa replicative plasmid. We were able to demonstrate expression and surface localization of LigA and LigB in L. biflexa. We found that the expression of the lig genes significantly enhanced the ability of transformed L. biflexa to adhere in vitro to extracellular matrix components and cultured cells, suggesting the involvement of Lig proteins in cell adhesion.
This work reports a complete description of the system we have developed for heterologous expression of pathogen-specific proteins in the saprophytic L. biflexa. We show that expression of LigA and LigB proteins from the pathogen confers a virulence-associated phenotype on L. biflexa, namely adhesion to eukaryotic cells and fibronectin in vitro. This study indicates that L. biflexa can serve as a surrogate host to characterize the role of key virulence factors of the causative agent of leptospirosis.
PMCID: PMC3133549  PMID: 21658265
14.  Dengue hemorrhagic fever is associated with polymorphisms in JAK1 
To identify genes associated with the clinical presentation of dengue, 50 cases of probable or possible dengue hemorrhagic fever, 236 dengue fever and 236 asymptomatic infections were genotyped for 593 single nucleotide polymorphisms in 56 genes across the type 1 interferon response pathway as well as other important candidate genes. By single locus analysis comparing dengue hemorrhagic fever with dengue fever, 11 of the 51 markers with p<0.05 were in the JAK1 gene. Five markers were significantly associated by false discovery rate criteria (q<0.20 when p<6 × 10−4). The JAK1 single nucleotide polymorphisms showed differential distribution by ethnicity and ancestry consistent with epidemiologic observations in the Americas. The association remained significant after controlling for ancestry and income. No association was observed with markers in the gene encoding CD209 (DC-SIGN). An association between dengue hemorrhagic fever and JAK1 polymorphisms is in agreement with expression profiles showing generalized decreased type 1 interferon-stimulated gene expression in these patients.
PMCID: PMC2950898  PMID: 20588308
Flavivirus; population structure; interferon; genetic association; Brazil
16.  Eschar-associated Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis, Bahia, Brazil 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2011;17(2):275-278.
In Brazil, Brazilian spotted fever was once considered the only tick-borne rickettsial disease. We report eschar-associated rickettsial disease that occurred after a tick bite. The etiologic agent is most related to Rickettsia parkeri, R. africae, and R. sibirica and probably widely distributed from São Paulo to Bahia in the Atlantic Forest.
PMCID: PMC3204763  PMID: 21291605
Spotted fever group rickettsiosis; rickettsia; eschar; multiple-locus sequence analysis; ticks; molecular diagnosis; dispatch
17.  Monitoring Leptospira Strain Collections: The Need for Quality Control 
The purpose of this study was to perform a 16S sequence-based quality control of two Leptospira strain collections. 16S rRNA gene sequencing was used to verify two Leptospira reference collections provided by the World Health Organization and maintained at a reference laboratory for leptospirosis in Brazil. Among the 89 serovars evaluated, four conflicting strains were identified in one of the collections. Although 16S rRNA gene sequencing cannot identify Leptospira beyond the species level, it is suitable for the identification of contamination and quality control of leptospiral reference collections. This study highlights the importance of the availability of high-quality 16S rRNA sequences in public databases. In addition, it emphasizes the need for periodical verifications and quality control of Leptospira reference collections.
PMCID: PMC2803514  PMID: 20065000
18.  An imprint method for detecting leptospires in the hamster model of vaccine-mediated immunity for leptospirosis 
Journal of Medical Microbiology  2009;58(Pt 12):1632-1637.
In determining the efficacy of new vaccine candidates for leptospirosis, the primary end point is death and an important secondary end point is sterilizing immunity. However, evaluation of this end point is often hampered by the time-consuming demands and complexity of methods such as culture isolation (CI). In this study, we evaluated the use of an imprint (or touch preparation) method (IM) in detecting the presence of leptospires in tissues of hamsters infected with Leptospira interrogans serovar Copenhageni. In a dissemination study, compared to CI, the IM led to equal or improved detection of leptospires in kidney, liver, lung and blood samples collected post-infection and overall concordance was good (κ=0.61). Furthermore, in an evaluation of hamsters immunized with a recombinant leptospiral protein-based vaccine candidate and subsequently challenged, the agreement between the CI and IM was very good (κ=0.84). These findings indicate that the IM is a rapid method for the direct observation of Leptospira spp. that can be readily applied to evaluating infection in experimental animals and determining sterilizing immunity when screening potential vaccine candidates.
PMCID: PMC2887544  PMID: 19679685
19.  Factors associated with Group A Streptococcus emm type diversification in a large urban setting in Brazil: a cross-sectional study 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2010;10:327.
Group A Streptococcus (GAS) strain diversity varies across different regions of the world, according to low versus high-income countries. These differences may be related to geographic, environmental, socioeconomic, or host-related factors. However, local factors may also affect strain diversity. We compared the emm types of GAS isolates from children with and without sore throat in one large urban setting in Brazil.
Children 3-15 years of age were consecutively recruited from slum and non-slum pediatric outpatient clinics between April-October, 2008. Throat cultures were performed and data intake forms were completed. GAS isolates were typed by emm sequencing.
From 2194 children, 254 (12%) GAS isolates were obtained. Of 238 GAS isolates that were emm-typed, 61 unique emm types were identified. Simpson's diversity index of the emm types was higher among isolates from slum children [97% (96%-98%)] than those of non-slum children [92% (89%-96%)]. Two emm types (66.0, 12.0) were more frequently isolated from children with sore throat (p < 0.05), and one emm type (27G.0) demonstrated a protective effect.
The emm type diversity from children attending slum clinics resembled the emm diversity of low income countries rather than that of children attending a non-slum clinic in the same city. Local factors, such as crowding, may enhance the frequency of GAS transmission and horizontal gene transfers that contribute to increased strain diversity in the slums. GAS vaccine coverage and control of GAS infections will need to take these local factors and strain differences into consideration.
PMCID: PMC2994873  PMID: 21070669
20.  Prevalence of Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 6C among invasive and carriage isolates in metropolitan Salvador, Brazil from 1996-2007 
The newly described Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 6C accounted for 2.3% (16/709) of meningitis cases and 3.2% (3/95) of nasopharyngeal isolates from healthy individuals in Brazil. The strains were multidrug resistant (18.8%) and genetically diverse. Despite low serotype 6C prevalence, continuous surveillance is necessary to guide vaccine strategies.
PMCID: PMC2752964  PMID: 19709842
Streptococcus pneumoniae; serotype 6C; epidemiology; meningitis; carriage
21.  Distribution of the leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (lig) genes in pathogenic Leptospira species and application of ligB to typing leptospiral isolates 
Journal of Medical Microbiology  2009;58(Pt 9):1173-1181.
The family of leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (lig) genes comprises ligA, ligB and ligC. This study used PCR to demonstrate the presence of lig genes among serovars from a collection of leptospiral strains and clinical isolates. Whilst ligA and ligC appeared to be present in a limited number of pathogenic serovars, the ligB gene was distributed ubiquitously among all pathogenic strains. None of the lig genes were detected among intermediate or saprophytic Leptospira species. It was also shown that, similar to the previously characterized secY gene, a short specific PCR fragment of ligB could be used to correctly identify pathogenic Leptospira species. These findings demonstrate that ligB is widely present among pathogenic strains and may be useful for their reliable identification and classification.
PMCID: PMC2887549  PMID: 19528180
22.  Arginase levels and their association with Th17-related cytokines, soluble adhesion molecules (sICAM-1 and sVCAM-1) and hemolysis markers among steady-state sickle cell anemia patients 
Annals of Hematology  2010;89(9):877-882.
Sickle cell anemia (SCA) is characterized by a marked endothelial dysfunction, owing to many factors. Arginine metabolism can be related to the inflammatory chronic state presented by patients, playing a key role in their clinical outcome and vascular endothelium. We investigated the serum arginase levels in 50 SCA patients (22 men and 28 women, mean age of 17 ± 10.5 years) and 28 healthy controls. Serum arginase levels were associated with biochemical hemolysis markers and cytokines involved in Th17 response, as well as levels of soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (sICAM-1) and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (sVCAM-1). Arginase concentrations were higher in SCA patients, compared with controls (p = 0.005), and were significantly and positively associated with total bilirubin (p = 0.004), indirect bilirubin (p = 0.04), and aspartate aminotransferase (AST; p = 0.039) in the SCA patient group. Moreover, arginase was significantly and positively associated with transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta; p = 0.008) among SCA patients. sICAM-1 was significantly and positively associated to reticulocytes (p = 0.014) and AST (p = 0.04). sVCAM-1 was likewise associated with lactate dehydrogenase (p = 0.03). These data suggest a new insight into arginase metabolism, as we show here a shift in arginine catabolism, where TGF-beta may induces the arginase pathway instead of the nitric oxide pathway and a possible involvement of the vascular activation and the serum arginase in chronic hemolysis among SCA patients. Additional studies should be carried out in order to investigate the mechanisms by which TGF-beta participates in the metabolism of arginase in SCA patients.
PMCID: PMC2908460  PMID: 20405289
Sickle cell anemia; Arginine; Arginase; Th17 cells; Soluble adhesion molecules; TGF-β
23.  Genetic diversity of the Leptospiral immunoglobulin-like (Lig) genes in pathogenic Leptospira spp. 
Recent serologic, immunoprotection, and pathogenesis studies identified the Lig proteins as key virulence determinants in interactions of leptospiral pathogens with the mammalian host. We examined the sequence variation and recombination patterns of ligA, ligB, and ligC among 10 pathogenic strains from five Leptospira species. All strains were found to have intact ligB genes and genetic drift accounting for most of the ligB genetic diversity observed. The ligA gene was found exclusively in L. interrogans and L. kirschneri strains, and was created from ligB by a two-step partial gene duplication process. The aminoterminal domain of LigB and the LigA paralog were essentially identical (98.5 ± 0.8% mean identity) in strains with both genes. Like ligB, ligC gene variation also followed phylogenetic patterns, suggesting an early gene duplication event. However, ligC is a pseudogene in several strains, suggesting that LigC is not essential for virulence. Two ligB genes and one ligC gene had mosaic compositions and evidence for recombination events between related Leptospira species was also found for some ligA genes. In conclusion, the results presented here indicate that Lig diversity has important ramifications for the selection of Lig polypeptides for use in diagnosis and as vaccine candidates. This sequence information will aid the identification of highly conserved regions within the Lig proteins and improve upon the performance characteristics of the Lig proteins in diagnostic assays and in subunit vaccine formulations with the potential to confer heterologous protection.
PMCID: PMC2812920  PMID: 19028604
Leptospirosis; Lig; Pathogenesis; Molecular evolution; Sequence analysis
24.  Carriage of Leptospira interrogans among domestic rats from an urban setting highly endemic for leptospirosis in Brazil 
Acta tropica  2008;108(1):1-5.
A survey was conducted to identify reservoirs for urban leptospirosis in the city of Salvador, Brazil. Sampling protocols were performed in the vicinity of households of severe leptospirosis cases identified during active hospital-based surveillance. Among a total of 142 captured Rattus norvegicus (Norwegian brown rat), 80.3% had a positive culture isolate from urine or kidney specimens and 68.1% had a positive serum sample by microscopic agglutination test (MAT) titre of ≥1:100. Monoclonal antibody-based typing of isolates identified that the agent carried by rats was L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni, which was the same serovar isolated from patients during hospital-based surveillance. Leptospira spp. were not isolated from 8 captured Didelphis marsupialis (Opossum), while 5/7 had a positive MAT titre against a saprophytic serogroup. R. rattus were not captured during the survey. The study findings indicate that the brown rat is a major rodent reservoir for leptospirosis in this urban setting. Furthermore, the high carriage rates of L. interrogans serovar Copenhageni in captured rats suggest that there is a significant degree of environmental contamination with this agent in the household environment of high risk areas, which in turn is a cause of transmission during urban epidemics.
PMCID: PMC2596941  PMID: 18721789
Leptospira; Leptospirosis; Rats; Poverty Areas
25.  Transmission of Streptococcus pneumoniae in an Urban Slum Community 
The Journal of infection  2008;57(3):204-213.
Inhabitants of slum settlements represent a significant proportion of the population at risk for pneumococcal disease in developing countries.
We conducted a household survey of pneumococcal carriage among residents of a slum community in the city of Salvador, Brazil.
Among 262 subjects, 95 (36%) were colonized with S. pneumoniae. Children <5 years of age (OR, 8.0; 95%CI, 3.5-18.6) and those who attended schools (OR 2.7, 95%CI, 1.2-6.0) had significantly higher risk of being colonized. Of 94 isolates obtained from colonized individuals, 51% had serotypes included in the seven-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. Overall, 10% (9 of 94 isolates) were nonsusceptible to penicillin and 28% (27 of 94 isolates) were resistant to cotrimoxazole. BOX-PCR, PFGE and MLST analysis found that 44% of the carriage isolates belonged to 14 distinct clonal groups. Strains of the same clonal group were isolated from multiple members of 9 out of the 39 study households. Nineteen carriage isolates had genotypes that were the same as those identified among 362 strains obtained from active surveillance for meningitis.
The study's findings indicate that there is significant intra and inter-household spread of S. pneumoniae in the slum community setting. However, a limited number of clones encountered during carriage among slum residents were found to cause invasive disease.
PMCID: PMC2654257  PMID: 18672297
Streptococcus pneumoniae; nasopharyngeal carriage; pneumococcal conjugate vaccines; antibiotic resistance; urban slums

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