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1.  Close Geographic Association of Human Neoehrlichiosis and Tick Populations Carrying “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” in Eastern Switzerland 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(1):169-176.
Neoehrlichiosis caused by “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” is an emerging zoonotic disease. In total, six patients have been described in Europe, with the first case detected in 2007. In addition, seven patients from China were described in a report published in October 2012. In 2009, we diagnosed the first human case of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” infection in the Zurich area (Switzerland). Here, we report two additional human cases from the same region, which were identified by broad-range 16S rRNA gene PCR. Both patients were immunocompromised and presented with similar clinical syndromes, including fever, malaise, and weight loss. A diagnostic multiplex real-time PCR was developed for specific detection of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” infections. The assay is based on the signature sequence of a 280-bp fragment of the “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” 16S rRNA gene and incorporates a “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” species, a “Ca. Neoehrlichia” genus, and an Anaplasmataceae family probe for simultaneous screening. The analytical sensitivity was determined to be below five copies of the “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” 16S rRNA gene. Our results show that the assay is suitable for the direct detection of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” DNA in clinical samples from, for example, blood and bone marrow. In addition, it allows for monitoring treatment response during antibiotic therapy. Using the same assay, DNA extracts from 1,916 ticks collected in four forests in close proximity to the patients' residences (<3 km) were screened. At all sampling sites, the minimal prevalence of “Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis” was between 3.5 to 8% in pools of either nymphs, males, or females, showing a strong geographic association between the three patients and the assumed vector.
PMCID: PMC3536216  PMID: 23115262
2.  HIV Infection Disrupts the Sympatric Host–Pathogen Relationship in Human Tuberculosis 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(3):e1003318.
The phylogeographic population structure of Mycobacterium tuberculosis suggests local adaptation to sympatric human populations. We hypothesized that HIV infection, which induces immunodeficiency, will alter the sympatric relationship between M. tuberculosis and its human host. To test this hypothesis, we performed a nine-year nation-wide molecular-epidemiological study of HIV–infected and HIV–negative patients with tuberculosis (TB) between 2000 and 2008 in Switzerland. We analyzed 518 TB patients of whom 112 (21.6%) were HIV–infected and 233 (45.0%) were born in Europe. We found that among European-born TB patients, recent transmission was more likely to occur in sympatric compared to allopatric host–pathogen combinations (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 7.5, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 1.21–infinity, p = 0.03). HIV infection was significantly associated with TB caused by an allopatric (as opposed to sympatric) M. tuberculosis lineage (OR 7.0, 95% CI 2.5–19.1, p<0.0001). This association remained when adjusting for frequent travelling, contact with foreigners, age, sex, and country of birth (adjusted OR 5.6, 95% CI 1.5–20.8, p = 0.01). Moreover, it became stronger with greater immunosuppression as defined by CD4 T-cell depletion and was not the result of increased social mixing in HIV–infected patients. Our observation was replicated in a second independent panel of 440 M. tuberculosis strains collected during a population-based study in the Canton of Bern between 1991 and 2011. In summary, these findings support a model for TB in which the stable relationship between the human host and its locally adapted M. tuberculosis is disrupted by HIV infection.
Author Summary
Human tuberculosis (TB) caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis kills 1.5 million people each year. M. tuberculosis has been affecting humans for millennia, suggesting that different strain lineages may be adapted to specific human populations. The combination of a particular strain lineage and its corresponding patient population can be classified as sympatric (e.g. Euro-American lineage in Europeans) or allopatric (e.g. East-Asian lineage in Europeans). We hypothesized that infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which impairs the human immune system, will interfere with this host–pathogen relationship. We performed a nation-wide molecular-epidemiological study of HIV–infected and HIV–negative TB patients between 2000 and 2008 in Switzerland. We found that HIV infection was associated with the less adapted allopatric lineages among patients born in Europe, and this was not explained by social or other patient factors such as increased social mixing in HIV–infected individuals. Strikingly, the association between HIV infection and less adapted M. tuberculosis lineages was stronger in patients with more pronounced immunodeficiency. Our observation was replicated in a second independent panel of M. tuberculosis strains collected during a population-based study in the Canton of Bern. In summary, our study provides evidence that the sympatric host–pathogen relationship in TB is disrupted by HIV infection.
PMCID: PMC3591267  PMID: 23505379
3.  Effect of Mutation and Genetic Background on Drug Resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
Bacterial factors may contribute to the global emergence and spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB). Only a few studies have reported on the interactions between different bacterial factors. We studied drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates from a nationwide study conducted from 2000 to 2008 in Switzerland. We determined quantitative drug resistance levels of first-line drugs by using Bactec MGIT-960 and drug resistance genotypes by sequencing the hot-spot regions of the relevant genes. We determined recent transmission by molecular methods and collected clinical data. Overall, we analyzed 158 isolates that were resistant to isoniazid, rifampin, or ethambutol, 48 (30.4%) of which were multidrug resistant. Among 154 isoniazid-resistant strains, katG mutations were associated with high-level and inhA promoter mutations with low-level drug resistance. Only katG(S315T) (65.6% of all isoniazid-resistant strains) and inhA promoter −15C/T (22.7%) were found in molecular clusters. M. tuberculosis lineage 2 (includes Beijing genotype) was associated with any drug resistance (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 3.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.7 to 5.6; P < 0.0001). Lineage 1 was associated with inhA promoter −15C/T mutations (OR, 6.4; 95% CI, 2.0 to 20.7; P = 0.002). We found that the genetic strain background influences the level of isoniazid resistance conveyed by particular mutations (interaction tests of drug resistance mutations across all lineages; P < 0.0001). In conclusion, M. tuberculosis drug resistance mutations were associated with various levels of drug resistance and transmission, and M. tuberculosis lineages were associated with particular drug resistance-conferring mutations and phenotypic drug resistance. Our study also supports a role for epistatic interactions between different drug resistance mutations and strain genetic backgrounds in M. tuberculosis drug resistance.
PMCID: PMC3370767  PMID: 22470121
4.  Mycobacterium tuberculosis Transmission in a Country with Low Tuberculosis Incidence: Role of Immigration and HIV Infection 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2012;50(2):388-395.
Immigrants from high-burden countries and HIV-coinfected individuals are risk groups for tuberculosis (TB) in countries with low TB incidence. Therefore, we studied their role in transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Switzerland. We included all TB patients from the Swiss HIV Cohort and a sample of patients from the national TB registry. We identified molecular clusters by spoligotyping and mycobacterial interspersed repetitive-unit–variable-number tandem-repeat (MIRU-VNTR) analysis and used weighted logistic regression adjusted for age and sex to identify risk factors for clustering, taking sampling proportions into account. In total, we analyzed 520 TB cases diagnosed between 2000 and 2008; 401 were foreign born, and 113 were HIV coinfected. The Euro-American M. tuberculosis lineage dominated throughout the study period (378 strains; 72.7%), with no evidence for another lineage, such as the Beijing genotype, emerging. We identified 35 molecular clusters with 90 patients, indicating recent transmission; 31 clusters involved foreign-born patients, and 15 involved HIV-infected patients. Birth origin was not associated with clustering (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.58; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.73 to 3.43; P = 0.25, comparing Swiss-born with foreign-born patients), but clustering was reduced in HIV-infected patients (aOR, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.26 to 0.93; P = 0.030). Cavitary disease, male sex, and younger age were all associated with molecular clustering. In conclusion, most TB patients in Switzerland were foreign born, but transmission of M. tuberculosis was not more common among immigrants and was reduced in HIV-infected patients followed up in the national HIV cohort study. Continued access to health services and clinical follow-up will be essential to control TB in this population.
PMCID: PMC3264153  PMID: 22116153
5.  Tuberculosis in HIV-Negative and HIV-Infected Patients in a Low-Incidence Country: Clinical Characteristics and Treatment Outcomes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e34186.
In Switzerland and other developed countries, the number of tuberculosis (TB) cases has been decreasing for decades, but HIV-infected patients and migrants remain risk groups. The aim of this study was to compare characteristics of TB in HIV-negative and HIV-infected patients diagnosed in Switzerland, and between coinfected patients enrolled and not enrolled in the national Swiss HIV Cohort Study (SHCS).
Methods and Findings
All patients diagnosed with culture-confirmed TB in the SHCS and a random sample of culture-confirmed cases reported to the national TB registry 2000–2008 were included. Outcomes were assessed in HIV-infected patients and considered successful in case of cure or treatment completion. Ninety-three SHCS patients and 288 patients selected randomly from 4221 registered patients were analyzed. The registry sample included 10 (3.5%) coinfected patients not enrolled in the SHCS: the estimated number of HIV-infected patients not enrolled in the SHCS but reported to the registry 2000–2008 was 146 (95% CI 122–173). Coinfected patients were more likely to be from sub-Saharan Africa (51.5% versus 15.8%, P<0.0001) and to present disseminated disease (23.9% vs. 3.4%, P<0.0001) than HIV-negative patients. Coinfected patients not enrolled in the SHCS were asylum seekers or migrant workers, with lower CD4 cell counts at TB diagnosis (median CD4 count 79 cells/µL compared to 149 cells/µL among SHCS patients, P = 0.07). There were 6 patients (60.0%) with successful outcomes compared to 82 (88.2%) patients in the SHCS (P = 0.023).
The clinical presentation of coinfected patients differed from HIV-negative TB patients. The number of HIV-infected patients diagnosed with TB outside the SHCS is similar to the number diagnosed within the cohort but outcomes are poorer in patients not followed up in the national cohort. Special efforts are required to address the needs of this vulnerable population.
PMCID: PMC3316631  PMID: 22479556
6.  Genetic Diversity of EBV-Encoded LMP1 in the Swiss HIV Cohort Study and Implication for NF-Κb Activation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e32168.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is associated with several types of cancers including Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL) and nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). EBV-encoded latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1), a multifunctional oncoprotein, is a powerful activator of the transcription factor NF-κB, a property that is essential for EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell survival. Previous studies reported LMP1 sequence variations and induction of higher NF-κB activation levels compared to the prototype B95-8 LMP1 by some variants. Here we used biopsies of EBV-associated cancers and blood of individuals included in the Swiss HIV Cohort Study (SHCS) to analyze LMP1 genetic diversity and impact of sequence variations on LMP1-mediated NF-κB activation potential. We found that a number of variants mediate higher NF-κB activation levels when compared to B95-8 LMP1 and mapped three single polymorphisms responsible for this phenotype: F106Y, I124V and F144I. F106Y was present in all LMP1 isolated in this study and its effect was variant dependent, suggesting that it was modulated by other polymorphisms. The two polymorphisms I124V and F144I were present in distinct phylogenetic groups and were linked with other specific polymorphisms nearby, I152L and D150A/L151I, respectively. The two sets of polymorphisms, I124V/I152L and F144I/D150A/L151I, which were markers of increased NF-κB activation in vitro, were not associated with EBV-associated HL in the SHCS. Taken together these results highlighted the importance of single polymorphisms for the modulation of LMP1 signaling activity and demonstrated that several groups of LMP1 variants, through distinct mutational paths, mediated enhanced NF-κB activation levels compared to B95-8 LMP1.
PMCID: PMC3285206  PMID: 22384168
7.  Improved sensitivity of an interferon-gamma release assay (T-SPOT.TB™) in combination with tuberculin skin test for the diagnosis of latent tuberculosis in the presence of HIV co-Infection 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2011;11:319.
Interferon-gamma release assays (IGRA) are more specific than the tuberculin skin test (TST) for the diagnosis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. Data on sensitivity are controversial in HIV infection.
IGRA (T-SPOT.TB) was performed using lymphocytes stored within 6 months before culture-confirmed tuberculosis was diagnosed in HIV-infected individuals in the Swiss HIV Cohort Study.
64 individuals (69% males, 45% of non-white ethnicity, median age 35 years (interquartile range [IQR] 31-42), 28% with prior AIDS) were analysed. Median CD4 cell count was 223 cells/μl (IQR 103-339), HIV-RNA was 4.7 log10 copies/mL (IQR 4.3-5.2). T-SPOT.TB resulted positive in 25 patients (39%), negative in 18 (28%) and indeterminate in 21 (33%), corresponding to a sensitivity of 39% (95% CI 27-51%) if all test results were considered, and 58% (95% CI 43-74%) if indeterminate results were excluded. Sensitivity of IGRA was independent of CD4 cell count (p = 0.698). Among 44 individuals with available TST, 22 (50%) had a positive TST. Agreement between TST and IGRA was 57% (kappa = 0.14, p = 0.177), and in 34% (10/29) both tests were positive. Combining TST and IGRA (at least one test positive) resulted in an improved sensitivity of 67% (95% CI 52-81%). In multivariate analysis, older age was associated with negative results of TST and T-SPOT.TB (OR 3.07, 95% CI 1,22-7.74, p = 0.017, per 10 years older).
T-SPOT.TB and TST have similar sensitivity to detect latent TB in HIV-infected individuals. Combining TST and IGRA may help clinicians to better select HIV-infected individuals with latent tuberculosis who qualify for preventive treatment.
PMCID: PMC3226666  PMID: 22085801
8.  An unusual presentation of amebic liver abscesses 
PMCID: PMC2972326  PMID: 20584933
9.  Minority K65R Variants and Early Failure of Antiretroviral Therapy in HIV-1–infected Eritrean Immigrant 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2011;17(10):1966-1968.
PMCID: PMC3310679  PMID: 22000388
retroviruses; HIV; antiretroviral therapy; ART; drug-resistant HIV-1 minority variants; K65R; HIV-1 subtype C; resource-limited setting; early virological failure; letter
10.  Replicative phenotyping adds value to genotypic resistance testing in heavily pre-treated HIV-infected individuals - the Swiss HIV Cohort Study 
Replicative phenotypic HIV resistance testing (rPRT) uses recombinant infectious virus to measure viral replication in the presence of antiretroviral drugs. Due to its high sensitivity of detection of viral minorities and its dissecting power for complex viral resistance patterns and mixed virus populations rPRT might help to improve HIV resistance diagnostics, particularly for patients with multiple drug failures. The aim was to investigate whether the addition of rPRT to genotypic resistance testing (GRT) compared to GRT alone is beneficial for obtaining a virological response in heavily pre-treated HIV-infected patients.
Patients with resistance tests between 2002 and 2006 were followed within the Swiss HIV Cohort Study (SHCS). We assessed patients' virological success after their antiretroviral therapy was switched following resistance testing. Multilevel logistic regression models with SHCS centre as a random effect were used to investigate the association between the type of resistance test and virological response (HIV-1 RNA <50 copies/mL or ≥1.5log reduction).
Of 1158 individuals with resistance tests 221 with GRT+rPRT and 937 with GRT were eligible for analysis. Overall virological response rates were 85.1% for GRT+rPRT and 81.4% for GRT. In the subgroup of patients with >2 previous failures, the odds ratio (OR) for virological response of GRT+rPRT compared to GRT was 1.45 (95% CI 1.00-2.09). Multivariate analyses indicate a significant improvement with GRT+rPRT compared to GRT alone (OR 1.68, 95% CI 1.31-2.15).
In heavily pre-treated patients rPRT-based resistance information adds benefit, contributing to a higher rate of treatment success.
PMCID: PMC3032678  PMID: 21255386
11.  Septicemia Caused by Tick-borne Bacterial Pathogen Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2010;16(7):1127-1129.
We have repeatedly detected Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis, a bacterium first described in Rattus norvegicus rats and Ixodes ovatus ticks in Japan in 2004 in the blood of a 61-year-old man with signs of septicemia by 16S rRNA and groEL gene PCR. After 6 weeks of therapy with doxycycline and rifampin, the patient recovered.
PMCID: PMC3358111  PMID: 20587186
Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis; septicemia; human infection; 16S rRNA gene PCR; therapy; tick-borne pathogen; bacteria; dispatch

Results 1-11 (11)