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1.  Combination of gene expression patterns in whole blood discriminate between tuberculosis infection states 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:257.
Background
Genetic factors are involved in susceptibility or protection to tuberculosis (TB). Apart from gene polymorphisms and mutations, changes in levels of gene expression, induced by non-genetic factors, may also determine whether individuals progress to active TB.
Methods
We analysed the expression level of 45 genes in a total of 47 individuals (23 healthy household contacts and 24 new smear-positive pulmonary TB patients) in Addis Ababa using a dual colour multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (dcRT-MLPA) technique to assess gene expression profiles that may be used to distinguish TB cases and their contacts and also latently infected (LTBI) and uninfected household contacts.
Results
The gene expression level of BLR1, Bcl2, IL4d2, IL7R, FCGR1A, MARCO, MMP9, CCL19, and LTF had significant discriminatory power between sputum smear-positive TB cases and household contacts, with AUCs of 0.84, 0.81, 0.79, 0.79, 0.78, 0.76, 0.75, 0.75 and 0.68 respectively. The combination of Bcl2, BLR1, FCGR1A, IL4d2 and MARCO identified 91.66% of active TB cases and 95.65% of household contacts without active TB. The expression of CCL19, TGFB1, and Foxp3 showed significant difference between LTBI and uninfected contacts, with AUCs of 0.85, 0.82, and 0.75, respectively, whereas the combination of BPI, CCL19, FoxP3, FPR1 and TGFB1 identified 90.9% of QFT- and 91.6% of QFT+ household contacts.
Conclusions
Expression of single and especially combinations of host genes can accurately differentiate between active TB cases and healthy individuals as well as between LTBI and uninfected contacts.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-257
PMCID: PMC4041060  PMID: 24885723
2.  Field-Evaluation of a New Lateral Flow Assay for Detection of Cellular and Humoral Immunity against Mycobacterium leprae 
Background
Field-applicable tests detecting asymptomatic Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae) infection or predicting progression to leprosy, are urgently required. Since the outcome of M. leprae infection is determined by cellular- and humoral immunity, we aim to develop diagnostic tests detecting pro-/anti-inflammatory and regulatory cytokines as well as antibodies against M. leprae. Previously, we developed lateral flow assays (LFA) for detection of cytokines and anti-PGL-I antibodies. Here we evaluate progress of newly developed LFAs for applications in resource-poor settings.
Methods
The combined diagnostic value of IP-10, IL-10 and anti-PGL-I antibodies was tested using M. leprae-stimulated blood of leprosy patients and endemic controls (EC). For reduction of the overall test-to-result time the minimal whole blood assay time required to detect distinctive responses was investigated. To accommodate LFAs for field settings, dry-format LFAs for IP-10 and anti-PGL-I antibodies were developed allowing storage and shipment at ambient temperatures. Additionally, a multiplex LFA-format was applied for simultaneous detection of anti-PGL-I antibodies and IP-10. For improved sensitivity and quantitation upconverting phosphor (UCP) reporter technology was applied in all LFAs.
Results
Single and multiplex UCP-LFAs correlated well with ELISAs. The performance of dry reagent assays and portable, lightweight UCP-LF strip readers indicated excellent field-robustness. Notably, detection of IP-10 levels in stimulated samples allowed a reduction of the whole blood assay time from 24 h to 6 h. Moreover, IP-10/IL-10 ratios in unstimulated plasma differed significantly between patients and EC, indicating the feasibility to identify M. leprae infection in endemic areas.
Conclusions
Dry-format UCP-LFAs are low-tech, robust assays allowing detection of relevant cytokines and antibodies in response to M. leprae in the field. The high levels of IP-10 and the required shorter whole blood assay time, render this cytokine useful to discriminate between leprosy patients and EC.
Author Summary
Leprosy is one of the six diseases considered by WHO as a major threat in developing countries and often results in severe, life-long disabilities and deformities due to delayed diagnosis. Early detection of Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae) infection, followed by effective interventions, is considered vital to interrupt transmission. Thus, field-friendly tests that detect asymptomatic M. leprae infection are urgently required. The clinical outcome after M. leprae infection is determined by the balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines and antibodies in response to M. leprae. In this study, we developed lateral flow assays (LFA) for detection of pro-inflammatory (IP-10) vs. anti-inflammatory/regulatory (IL-10) cellular immunity as well as antibodies against M. leprae and evaluated these in a field setting in Ethiopia using lightweight, portable readers. We show that detection of IP-10 allowed a significant reduction of the overall test-to-result time from 24 h to 6 h. Moreover, IP-10/IL-10 ratios in unstimulated plasma differed significantly between patients and EC, which can provide means to identify M. leprae infection. Thus, the LFAs are low-tech, robust assays that can be applied in resource-poor settings measuring immunity to M. leprae and can be used as tools for early diagnosis of leprosy leading to timely treatment and reduced transmission.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002845
PMCID: PMC4014418  PMID: 24810599
3.  Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices Related to Visceral Leishmaniasis in Rural Communities of Amhara State: A Longitudinal Study in Northwest Ethiopia 
Background
In the northwest of Ethiopia, at the South Gondar region, there was a visceral leishmaniasis (VL) outbreak in 2005, making the disease a public health concern for the regional health authorities ever since. The knowledge on how the population perceives the disease is essential in order to propose successful control strategies.
Methodology/Principal findings
Two surveys on VL knowledge, attitudes and practices were conducted at the beginning (May 2009) and at the end (February 2011) of a VL longitudinal study carried out in rural communities of Libo Kemkem and Fogera, two districts of the Amhara Regional State. Results showed that VL global knowledge was very low in the area, and that it improved substantially in the period studied. Specifically, from 2009 to 2011, the frequency of proper knowledge regarding VL signs and symptoms increased from 47% to 71% (p<0.0001), knowledge of VL causes increased from 8% to 25% (p<0.0001), and knowledge on VL protection measures from 16% to 55% (p<0.0001). Moreover, the improvement observed in VL knowledge was more marked among the families with no previous history of VL case. Finally, in 2011 more than 90% of the households owned at least an impregnated bed net and had been sprayed, and attitudes towards these and other protective measures were very positive (over 94% acceptance for all of them).
Conclusions/Significance
In 2009 the level of knowledge regarding VL was very low among the rural population of this area, although it improved substantially in the study period, probably due to the contribution of many actors in the area. VL patients and relatives should be appropriately informed and trained as they may act as successful health community agents. VL risk behavioural patterns are subject to change as attitudes towards protective measures were very positive overall.
Author Summary
Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a vector borne disease that can be fatal if left untreated. In northern Ethiopia there was a VL outbreak in 2005, making the disease a public health challenge ever since. In order to promote the participation of communities in the control of the disease, it is essential to know how they perceive the disease and its management. There is a paucity of studies dealing with the knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) towards VL in the world in general and in rural Ethiopia in particular. We conducted two KAP studies at the beginning and at the end of a VL longitudinal study carried out between 2009 and 2011. The project included VL community talks and sensitization, and there were other interventions implemented by different actors in this period. Our results showed that, among the rural communities surveyed, the knowledge regarding signs and symptoms, causes, and protective measures of the disease was very low. However, it improved substantially in the period studied, suggesting that knowledge was subject to change by community interventions. It also showed that VL patients and relatives can act as successful health agents and that the population had positive attitudes towards the implementation of preventive actions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002799
PMCID: PMC3990515  PMID: 24743328
4.  Prevalence and Drug Resistance Patterns of Mycobacterium tuberculosis among New Smear Positive Pulmonary Tuberculosis Patients in Eastern Ethiopia 
The study aimed at determining the prevalence and drug resistance patterns of Mycobacterium tuberculosis among new smear positive pulmonary tuberculosis patients visiting TB diagnosis and treatment facilities at selected health facilities in eastern Ethiopia. A cross-sectional study was conducted between October 2011 and May 2013. A total of 408 new adult pulmonary TB patients (≥ 18 years) were enrolled in this study. Three consecutive sputum samples (spot, morning, and spot) were collected from each patient and transported to the Armauer Hansen Research Institute TB laboratory located in Addis Ababa for culture on Lowenstein Jensen slant media. DST was performed on 357 (87.5%) of the patient samples for isoniazid (H), rifampicin (R), ethambutol (E), and streptomycin (S) using the standard proportion method. The rate of resistance to any one drug was 23%. Any resistance to H, S, R, and E was 14%, 11.5%, 2.8%, and 0.3%, respectively. The highest proportion of monoresistance was observed against H (9.5%). MDRTB was detected in 1.1% of the patients. Any drug resistance was associated with HIV infection (COR = 3.7, 95% CI 1.905–7.222) (P = 0.000). Although the prevalence of MDRTB is relatively low in the study area, high prevalence of H resistance is a serious concern demanding close monitoring. Expanding diagnostic capacity for mycobacterial culture and DST is a vital step in this regard.
doi:10.1155/2014/753492
PMCID: PMC4009208  PMID: 24834351
5.  T-Cell Regulation in Lepromatous Leprosy 
Regulatory T (Treg) cells are known for their role in maintaining self-tolerance and balancing immune reactions in autoimmune diseases and chronic infections. However, regulatory mechanisms can also lead to prolonged survival of pathogens in chronic infections like leprosy and tuberculosis (TB). Despite high humoral responses against Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae), lepromatous leprosy (LL) patients have the characteristic inability to generate T helper 1 (Th1) responses against the bacterium. In this study, we investigated the unresponsiveness to M. leprae in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of LL patients by analysis of IFN-γ responses to M. leprae before and after depletion of CD25+ cells, by cell subsets analysis of PBMC and by immunohistochemistry of patients' skin lesions. Depletion of CD25+ cells from total PBMC identified two groups of LL patients: 7/18 (38.8%) gained in vitro responsiveness towards M. leprae after depletion of CD25+ cells, which was reversed to M. leprae-specific T-cell unresponsiveness by addition of autologous CD25+ cells. In contrast, 11/18 (61.1%) remained anergic in the absence of CD25+ T-cells. For both groups mitogen-induced IFN-γ was, however, not affected by depletion of CD25+ cells. In M. leprae responding healthy controls, treated lepromatous leprosy (LL) and borderline tuberculoid leprosy (BT) patients, depletion of CD25+ cells only slightly increased the IFN-γ response. Furthermore, cell subset analysis showed significantly higher (p = 0.02) numbers of FoxP3+ CD8+CD25+ T-cells in LL compared to BT patients, whereas confocal microscopy of skin biopsies revealed increased numbers of CD68+CD163+ as well as FoxP3+ cells in lesions of LL compared to tuberculoid and borderline tuberculoid leprosy (TT/BT) lesions. Thus, these data show that CD25+ Treg cells play a role in M. leprae-Th1 unresponsiveness in LL.
Author Summary
Leprosy is a curable infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae) that affects the skin and peripheral nerves. It is manifested in different forms ranging from self-healing, tuberculoid leprosy (TT) with low bacillary load and high cellular immunity against M. leprae, to lepromatous leprosy (LL) with high bacillary load and high antibody titers to M. leprae antigens. However, LL patients have poor cell mediated response against M. leprae leading to delayed clearance of the bacilli. A possible explanation for this bacterial persistence could lie in the presence of more regulatory cells at infection sites and in peripheral blood. This study shows the recovery of the cell mediated response by depletion of CD25+ cells in a subset of LL patients, while another patient subset was not affected similarly. Moreover, an increased frequency of FoxP3+ T cells together with anti-inflammatory macrophages was observed in LL patients' skin biopsies. Thus, these data show that CD25+ Treg cells play a role in M. leprae-unresponsiveness in leprosy patients.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002773
PMCID: PMC3983090  PMID: 24722473
6.  Out-of-Africa migration and Neolithic co-expansion of Mycobacterium tuberculosis with modern humans 
Nature genetics  2013;45(10):1176-1182.
Tuberculosis caused 20% of all human deaths in the Western world between the 17th and 19th centuries, and remains a cause of high mortality in developing countries. In analogy to other crowd diseases, the origin of human tuberculosis has been associated with the Neolithic Demographic Transition, but recent studies point to a much earlier origin. Here we used 259 whole-genome sequences to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC). Coalescent analyses indicate that MTBC emerged about 70 thousand years ago, accompanied migrations of anatomically modern humans out of Africa, and expanded as a consequence of increases in human population density during the Neolithic. This long co-evolutionary history is consistent with MTBC displaying characteristics indicative of adaptation to both low- and high host densities.
doi:10.1038/ng.2744
PMCID: PMC3800747  PMID: 23995134
7.  High prevalence of pfcrt-CVIET haplotype in isolates from asymptomatic and symptomatic patients in south-central Oromia, Ethiopia 
Malaria Journal  2014;13:120.
Background
As a result of extensive chloroquine resistance (CQR) in Plasmodium falciparum in late 1990s, Ethiopia replaced CQ with sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) as first-line drug, which in turn was replaced by artemisinin combination therapy in 2004. Plasmodium falciparum resistance to CQ is determined by the mutation at K76T of the P. falciparum chloroquine resistance transporter (pfcrt) gene. Understanding diversity in the P. falciparum genome is crucial since it has the potential to influence important phenotypes of the parasite such as drug resistance. Limited data is available regarding the type of pfcrt mutant allelic type, the effect of CQ withdrawal and diversity of the parasite population in south-central Oromia, Ethiopia.
Methods
Finger-pricked blood spotted on Whatman 3MM filter papers were collected from falciparum malaria patients. Parasite DNA was extracted from individual blood spots on the filter papers. The presence of K76T mutations was determined using nested PCR for all isolates. Complete sequencing of mutations in pfcrt 72-76 was done for a set of randomly selected resistant isolates. Four microsatellite (MS) markers were analysed to determine the heterozygosity.
Results
Although CQ was withdrawn for more than a decade, 100% of the parasites still carried the pfcrt K76T mutation. All isolates were mutant at the K76T polymorphism. Based on combinations of MS markers, seven different Ethiopian CQR variants (E1-E7) were identified. Heterozygosity (He) for MS flanking the pfcrt chloroquine resistance allele ranged from 0.00 (mscrt -29, -29.268 kb) to 0.21 (mscrt -2, -2.814 kb). He ranged from 0.00 (msint 3, 0 kb) to 0.19 (msint 2, 0 kb) for MS within the pfcrt gene. Both intronic and MS flanking the pfcrt gene showed low levels of diversity.
Conclusion
pfcrt CQR allele seems to be fixed in the study area. Of the different haplotypes associated with CQR, only the CVIET genotype was identified. No reversal to the wild-type has occurred in Ethiopia unlike in many Africa countries where CQR parasites declined after cessation of CQ use. Decreased diversity in CQR isolates surrounding pfcrt suggests CQ selection and homogenization among CQR parasite population. While mutation in msint 3 and mscrt -29 of the mutant pfcrt allele is being fixed, it seems that mutations in msint 2 and mscrt -2 are still evolving and may indicate the start of re-diversification of the population from a fixed 76 T population.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-13-120
PMCID: PMC3986696  PMID: 24674605
pfcrt; Wild-type; Drug resistance; Chloroquine; Plasmodium falciparum; Mutations; Heterozygosity; Microsatellite; Ethiopia
8.  Impact of HIV co-infection on plasma level of cytokines and chemokines of pulmonary tuberculosis patients 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:125.
Background
The immunologic environment during HIV/M. tuberculosis co-infection is characterized by cytokine and chemokine irregularities that have been shown to increase immune activation, viral replication, and T cell dysfunction.
Methods
We analysed ex vivo plasma samples from 17 HIV negative and 16 HIV pulmonary tuberculosis co infected cases using Luminex assay to see impact of HIV co-infection on plasma level of cytokines and chemokines of pulmonary tuberculosis patients before and after anti Tuberculosis treatment.
Results
The median plasma level of IFN-γ, IL-4, MCP-3, MIP-1β and IP-10 was significantly different (P < 0.05) before and after treatment in HIV negative TB patients but not in HIV positive TB patients. There was no significant difference between HIV positive and HIV negative TB patients (P > 0.05) in the plasma level of any of the cytokines or chemokines before treatment and anti TB treatment did not change the level of any of the measured cytokines in HIV positive tuberculosis patients. The ratio of IFN-γ/IL-10 and IFN-γ/IL-4 showed a significant increase after treatment in HIV negative TB cases but not in HIV positive TB cases which might indicate prolonged impairment of immune response to TB in HIV positive TB patients as compared to HIV negative tuberculosis patients.
Conclusions
HIV positive and HIV negative Tuberculosis patients display similar plasma cytokine and chemokine pattern. However, anti TB treatment significantly improves the Th1 cytokines and level of chemokines but does not restore the immune response in HIV positive individuals.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-125
PMCID: PMC3974017  PMID: 24592945
Pulmonary tuberculosis; HIV; Cytokines and chemokines
9.  Re-evaluation of microscopy confirmed Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax malaria by nested PCR detection in southern Ethiopia 
Malaria Journal  2014;13:48.
Background
With 75% of the Ethiopian population at risk of malaria, accurate diagnosis is crucial for malaria treatment in endemic areas where Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax co-exist. The present study evaluated the performance of regular microscopy in accurate identification of Plasmodium spp. in febrile patients visiting health facilities in southern Ethiopia.
Methods
A cross-sectional study design was employed to recruit study subjects who were microscopically positive for malaria parasites and attending health facilities in southern Ethiopia between August and December 2011. Of the 1,416 febrile patients attending primary health facilities, 314 febrile patients, whose slides were positive for P. falciparum, P. vivax or mixed infections using microscopy, were re-evaluated for their infection status by PCR. Finger-prick blood samples were used for parasite genomic DNA extraction. Phylogenetic analyses were performed to reconstruct the distribution of different Plasmodium spp. across the three geographical areas.
Results
Of the 314 patients with a positive thick blood smear, seven patients (2%) were negative for any of the Plasmodium spp. by nested PCR. Among 180 microscopically diagnosed P. falciparum cases, 111 (61.7%) were confirmed by PCR, 44 (24.4%) were confirmed as P. vivax, 18 (10%) had mixed infections with P. falciparum and P. vivax and two (1.1%) were mixed infections with P. falciparum and P. malariae and five (2.8%) were negative for any of the Plasmodium spp. Of 131 microscopically diagnosed P. vivax cases, 110 (84%) were confirmed as P. vivax, 14 (10.7%) were confirmed as P. falciparum, two (1.5%) were P. malariae, three (2.3%) with mixed infections with P. falciparum and P. vivax and two (1.5%) were negative for any of the Plasmodium spp. Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax mixed infections were observed. Plasmodium malariae was detected as mono and mixed infections in four individuals.
Conclusion
False positivity, under-reporting of mixed infections and a significant number of species mismatch needs attention and should be improved for appropriate diagnosis. The detection of substantial number of false positive results by molecular methodologies may provide the accurate incidence of circulating Plasmodium species in the geographical region and has important repercussions in understanding malaria epidemiology and subsequent control.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-13-48
PMCID: PMC4011513  PMID: 24502664
Malaria; Plasmodium; Nested PCR; Microscopy; Ethiopia
10.  No Association of Cryptococcal Antigenemia with Poor Outcomes among Antiretroviral Therapy-Experienced HIV-Infected Patients in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85698.
Introduction
There are limited data on clinical outcomes of ART-experienced patients with cryptococcal antigenemia. We assessed clinical outcomes of a predominantly asymptomatic, ART-experienced cohort of HIV+ patients previously found to have a high (8.4%) prevalence of cryptococcal antigenemia.
Methods
The study took place at All Africa Leprosy, Tuberculosis and Rehabilitative Training Centre and Black Lion Hospital HIV Clinics in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A retrospective study design was used to perform 12-month follow-up of 367 mostly asymptomatic HIV-infected patients (CD4<200 cells/µl) with high levels of antiretroviral therapy use (74%) who were previously screened for cryptococcal antigenemia. Medical chart abstraction was performed approximately one year after initial screening to obtain data on clinic visit history, ART use, CD4 count, opportunistic infections, and patient outcome. We evaluated the association of cryptococcal antigenemia and a composite poor outcome of death and loss to follow-up using logistic regression.
Results
Overall, 323 (88%) patients were alive, 8 (2%) dead, and 36 (10%) lost to follow-up. Among the 31 patients with a positive cryptococcal antigen test (titers ≥1∶8) at baseline, 28 were alive (all titers ≤1∶512), 1 dead and 2 lost to follow-up (titers ≥1∶1024). In multivariate analysis, cryptococcal antigenemia was not predictive of a poor outcome (aOR = 1.3, 95% CI 0.3–4.8). A baseline CD4 count <100 cells/µl was associated with an increased risk of a poor outcome (aOR 3.0, 95% CI 1.4–6.7) while an increasing CD4 count (aOR 0.1, 95% CI 0.1–0.3) and receiving antiretroviral therapy at last follow-up visit (aOR 0.1, 95% CI 0.02–0.2) were associated with a reduced risk of a poor outcome.
Conclusions
Unlike prior ART-naïve cohorts, we found that among persons receiving ART and with CD4 counts <200 cells/µl, asymptomatic cryptococcal antigenemia was not predictive of a poor outcome.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0085698
PMCID: PMC3897463  PMID: 24465651
11.  Seroprevalence of Brucellosis and Q-Fever in Southeast Ethiopian Pastoral Livestock 
Journal of veterinary science & medical diagnosis  2013;2(1):10.4172/2325-9590.1000109.
To assess seroprevalences of Brucella and C. burnetii in pastoral livestock in southeast Ethiopia, a cross-sectional study was carried out in three livestock species (cattle, camels and goats). The study was conducted from July 2008 to August 2010, and eight pastoral associations (PAs) from the selected districts were included in the study. Sera from a total of 1830 animals, comprising 862 cattle, 458 camels and 510 goats were screened initially with Rose Bengal plate test (RBPT) for Brucella. All RBPT positive and 25% of randomly selected negative sera were further tested by ELISA. These comprise a total of 460 animals (211 cattle, 102 camels and 147 goats). Out of sera from total of 1830 animals, 20% were randomly selected (180 cattle, 90 camels and 98 goats) and tested for C. burnetii using ELISA. The seroprevalences of Brucella was 1.4% (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.8-2.6), 0.9% (95% CI, 0.3-2.7)b and 9.6% (95% CI, 5.2-17.1) in cattle, camels and goats, respectively. Goats and older animals were at higher risk of infection (OR=7.3, 95% CI, 2.8-19.1) and (OR=1.7 95% CI, 0.9-2.9), respectively. Out of 98 RBPT negative camel sera, 12.0% were positive for ELISA. The seroprevalences of C. burnetii were 31.6% (95% CI, 24.7-39.5), 90.0% (95% CI, 81.8-94.7) and 54.2% (95% CI, 46.1-62.1) in cattle, camels and goats, respectively. We found positive animals for C. burnetii test in all tested PAs for all animal species. Being camel and older animal was a risk factor for infection (OR=19.0, 95% CI, 8.9-41.2) and (OR=3.6, 95% CI, 2.0-6.6), respectively. High seropositivity of C. burnetii in all livestock species tested and higher seropositive in goats for Brucella, implies risks of human infection by both diseases. Thus, merit necessity of further study of both diseases in animals and humans in the area.
doi:10.4172/2325-9590.1000109
PMCID: PMC3859921  PMID: 24350302
Brucellosis; Q-fever; Seroprevalence; Pastoral livestock; Southeast Ethiopia
13.  Transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis between Farmers and Cattle in Central Ethiopia 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76891.
Background
Transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis) complex could be possible between farmers and their cattle in Ethiopia.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A study was conducted in mixed type multi-purposes cattle raising region of Ethiopia on 287 households (146 households with case of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) and 141 free of TB) and 287 herds consisting of 2,033 cattle belonging to these households to evaluate transmission of TB between cattle and farmers. Interview, bacteriological examinations and molecular typing were used for human subjects while comparative intradermal tuberculin (CIDT) test, post mortem and bacteriological examinations, and molecular typing were used for animal studies. Herd prevalence of CIDT reactors was 9.4% and was higher (p<0.01) in herds owned by households with TB than in herds owned by TB free households. Animal prevalence was 1.8% and also higher (p<0.01) in cattle owned by households with TB case than in those owned by TB free households. All mycobacteria (141) isolated from farmers were M. tuberculosis, while only five of the 16 isolates from cattle were members of the M. tuberculosis complex (MTC) while the remaining 11 were members of non-tuberculosis mycobacteria (NTM). Further speciation of the five MTC isolates showed that three of the isolates were M. bovis (strain SB1176), while the remaining two were M. tuberculosis strains (SIT149 and SIT53). Pathology scoring method described by “Vordermeier et al. (2002)” was applied and the average severity of pathology in two cattle infected with M. bovis, in 11 infected with NTM and two infected with M. tuberculosis were 5.5, 2.1 and 0.5, respectively.
Conclusions/Significance
The results showed that transmission of TB from farmers to cattle by the airborne route sensitizes the cows but rarely leads to TB. Similarly, low transmission of M. bovis between farmers and their cattle was found, suggesting requirement of ingestion of contaminated milk from cows with tuberculous mastitis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076891
PMCID: PMC3794923  PMID: 24130804
14.  Detection of a substantial number of sub-microscopic Plasmodium falciparum infections by polymerase chain reaction: a potential threat to malaria control and diagnosis in Ethiopia 
Malaria Journal  2013;12:352.
Background
Prompt and effective malaria diagnosis not only alleviates individual suffering, but also decreases malaria transmission at the community level. The commonly used diagnostic methods, microscopy and rapid diagnostic tests, are usually insensitive at very low-density parasitaemia. Molecular techniques, on the other hand, allow the detection of low-level, sub-microscopic parasitaemia. This study aimed to explore the presence of sub-microscopic Plasmodium falciparum infections using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The PCR-based parasite prevalence was compared against microscopy and rapid diagnostic test (RDT).
Methods
This study used 1,453 blood samples collected from clinical patients and sub-clinical subjects to determine the prevalence of sub-microscopic P. falciparum carriages. Subsets of RDT and microscopy negative blood samples were tested by PCR while all RDT and microscopically confirmed P. falciparum-infected samples were subjected to PCR. Finger-prick blood samples spotted on filter paper were used for parasite genomic DNA extraction.
Results
The prevalence of sub-microscopic P. falciparum carriage was 19.2% (77/400) (95% CI = 15. 4–23.1). Microscopy-based prevalence of P. falciparum infection was 3.7% (54/1,453) while the prevalence was 6.9% (100/1,453) using RDT alone. Using microscopy and PCR, the estimated parasite prevalence was 20.6% if PCR were performed in 1,453 blood samples. The prevalence was estimated to be 22.7% if RDT and PCR were used. Of 54 microscopically confirmed P. falciparum-infected subjects, PCR detected 90.7% (49/54). Out of 100 RDT-confirmed P. falciparum infections; PCR detected 80.0% (80/100). The sensitivity of PCR relative to microscopy and RDT was, therefore, 90.7% and 80%, respectively. The sensitivity of microscopy and RDT relative to PCR was 16.5 (49/299) and 24.2% (80/330), respectively. The overall PCR-based prevalence of P. falciparum infection was 5.6- and 3.3 fold higher than that determined by microscopy and RDT, respectively. None of the sub-microscopic subjects had severe anaemia, though 29.4% had mild anaemia (10–11.9 g/dl).
Conclusions
Asymptomatic, low-density malaria infection was common in the study area and PCR may be a better tool for measuring Plasmodium prevalence than microscopy and RDT. The inadequate sensitivity of the diagnostic methods to detect substantial number of sub-microscopic parasitaemia would undoubtedly affect malaria control efforts, making reduction of transmission more difficult. RDT and microscopy-based prevalence studies and subsequent reports of reduction in malaria incidence underestimate the true pictures of P. falciparum infections in the community. PCR, on the other hand, seems to have reasonable sensitivity to detect a higher number of infected subjects with low and sub-microscopic parasite densities than RDTs or microscopy.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-12-352
PMCID: PMC3850638  PMID: 24090230
Sub-microscopic carriage; Asymptomatic malaria; Microscopy; RDT; PCR; Ethiopia
15.  Population-based prevalence survey of tuberculosis in the Tigray region of Ethiopia 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:448.
Background
Population based prevalence survey is an important epidemiological index to measure the burden of tuberculosis (TB) disease and monitor progress towards TB control in high burden countries like Ethiopia. This study was aimed to estimate the prevalence of bacteriologically confirmed pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.
Methods
Sixteen rural and urban villages were randomly selected in a stratified multistage cluster sampling. Individuals aged 15 years and older were screened by symptom inquiry for PTB. Those individuals who were symptomatic of PTB provided two sputum samples for smear microscopy, culture and molecular typing.
Results
The study covering 4,765 households screened a total of 12,175 individuals aged 15 years and above. The overall weighted prevalence of bacteriologically confirmed PTB in the Tigray region of Ethiopia was found to be 216/100,000 (95% CI: 202.08, 230.76) while the weighted prevalence of smear-positive PTB was 169/100,000 (95% CI: 155.53, 181.60). The prevalence of bacteriologically confirmed TB was higher amongst males (352/100 000; 95% CI: 339.05, 364.52) than females (162/100 000; 95% CI: 153.60, 171.17) and among rural (222/100,000; 95% CI: 212.77-231.53) as compared to urban residents (193/100,000; 95% CI: 183.39-203.59).
Conclusions
This study found a relatively higher prevalence smear-positive PTB in the region than in a same period nationwide survey and identified a significant number of undetected PTB cases. The urgency for improved TB case detection and intensified community awareness is emphasized.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-448
PMCID: PMC3849763  PMID: 24073793
Bacteriologically confirmed; Cross-sectional; Pulmonary tuberculosis; Tigray region; Ethiopia
16.  Genotype diversity of Mycobacterium isolates from children in Jimma, Ethiopia 
BMC Research Notes  2013;6:352.
Background
Paediatric tuberculosis (TB) is poorly addressed in Ethiopia and information about its magnitude and the genotype distribution of the causative Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains responsible for its spread are scanty.
Methods
Gastric lavage or sputum samples were collected from consecutively enrolled TB suspect children visiting Jimma University Hospital in 2011 and cultured on Middlebrook 7H11 and Löwenstein-Jensen media. Acid fast bacterial (AFB) isolates were subjected to molecular typing targeting regions of difference (RDs), 16S rDNA gene and the direct repeat (DR) region using multiplex polymerase chain reaction (mPCR), gene sequencing and spoligotyping, respectively. Molecular drug susceptibility testing of M. tuberculosis isolates was performed by Genotype®MTBDRplus line probe assay (LPA) (Hain Life Sciences, Germany).
Results
Gastric lavage (n = 43) or sputum (n = 58) samples were collected from 101 children and 31.7% (32/101) of the samples were positive for AFB by microscopy, culture and/or PCR. Out of 25 AFB isolates, 60% (15/25) were identified as M. tuberculosis by PCR, and 40% isolates (10/25) were confirmed to be non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) by genus typing and 16S rDNA gene sequencing. Lineage classification assigned the M. tuberculosis strains into Euro-American (EUA, 66.7%; 10/15), East-African-Indian (EAI; 2/15), East-Asian (EA; 1/15) and Indio-Oceanic (IO; 1/15) lineages. Seven M. tuberculosis strains were new to the SpolDB4 database. All of the M. tuberculosis isolates were susceptible to isoniazid (INH) and rifampicin (RIF), except for one strain (of spoligotype SIT-149 or T3_ETH family) which had a mutation at the inhA locus which often confers resistance to INH (low level) and ethionamide.
Conclusions
Analysis of the genetic population structure of paediatric M. tuberculosis strains suggested similarity with that of adults, indicating an on-going and active transmission of M. tuberculosis from adults to children in Ethiopia. There were no multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) strains among the isolates.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-352
PMCID: PMC3766673  PMID: 24007374
Paediatric TB; Mycobacterium; Paediatric spoligotype; Gastric lavage
17.  Bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis prevalence in cattle from selected milk cooperatives in Arsi zone, Oromia region, Ethiopia 
Background
Bovine tuberculosis (BTB) and bovine brucellosis are two important milk-borne zoonoses that have been shown to be prevalent to various degrees in Ethiopian cattle.
The study was carried out in four Woredas (districts) around Asella town, Arsi Zone between October 2011 and March 2012 and included 318 small-holders in 13 dairy cooperatives that marketed the delivered milk. The aims of the study were i) to assess the prevalence of the two diseases in cattle in a cross-sectional study, ii) to assess potential risk factors of BTB and brucellosis to humans as well as the knowledge-attitude-practice (KAP) among these farmers towards these diseases.
Results
BTB testing using the comparative intradermal skin test (CIDT) was done on 584 milking cows, out of which 417 were serologically tested for brucellosis using the Rose Bengal Plate Test and reactors confirmed with an indirect ELISA test (PrioCHECK®). The individual animal prevalence was 0.3% (95% CI 0.1% to 1.3%) for BTB, 1.7% (95% CI 0.8% to 3.5%) for brucellosis and 8.9% (95% CI 6.8% to 11.5%) for MAC (Mycobacterium avium complex). Of the 13 milk cooperatives, two had at least one positive BTB reactor and five had animals positive for brucellosis.
Cross-breeds accounted for 100% and 71.4% of the BTB and brucellosis reactors respectively. For both diseases, there were prevalence variations depending on Woreda. No animal was concomitant reactor for BTB and brucellosis.
Raw milk was consumed by 55.4% of the respondents. 79.2% of the respondents reported touching the afterbirth with bare hands. The latter was fed to dogs in 83% of the households. One cow among the herds of the 130 interviewees had aborted in the last 12 months. Among the interviewees, 77% stated knowing tuberculosis in general but 42 out of the 130 respondents (32.3%) did not know that BTB was transmitted by livestock. Less than half (47.7%) of the respondents knew about brucellosis.
Conclusions
Low prevalence of both diseases reflected the potential for the area to compete with the growing milk demand. The authors discussed the possible control strategies for the area.
doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-163
PMCID: PMC3751185  PMID: 23941112
Bovine brucellosis; Bovine tuberculosis; Cattle; Milk cooperatives; Disease prevalence; Ethiopia
18.  Prospecting Environmental Mycobacteria: Combined Molecular Approaches Reveal Unprecedented Diversity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68648.
Background
Environmental mycobacteria (EM) include species commonly found in various terrestrial and aquatic environments, encompassing animal and human pathogens in addition to saprophytes. Approximately 150 EM species can be separated into fast and slow growers based on sequence and copy number differences of their 16S rRNA genes. Cultivation methods are not appropriate for diversity studies; few studies have investigated EM diversity in soil despite their importance as potential reservoirs of pathogens and their hypothesized role in masking or blocking M. bovis BCG vaccine.
Methods
We report here the development, optimization and validation of molecular assays targeting the 16S rRNA gene to assess diversity and prevalence of fast and slow growing EM in representative soils from semi tropical and temperate areas. New primer sets were designed also to target uniquely slow growing mycobacteria and used with PCR-DGGE, tag-encoded Titanium amplicon pyrosequencing and quantitative PCR.
Results
PCR-DGGE and pyrosequencing provided a consensus of EM diversity; for example, a high abundance of pyrosequencing reads and DGGE bands corresponded to M. moriokaense, M. colombiense and M. riyadhense. As expected pyrosequencing provided more comprehensive information; additional prevalent species included M. chlorophenolicum, M. neglectum, M. gordonae, M. aemonae. Prevalence of the total Mycobacterium genus in the soil samples ranged from 2.3×107 to 2.7×108 gene targets g−1; slow growers prevalence from 2.9×105 to 1.2×107 cells g−1.
Conclusions
This combined molecular approach enabled an unprecedented qualitative and quantitative assessment of EM across soil samples. Good concordance was found between methods and the bioinformatics analysis was validated by random resampling. Sequences from most pathogenic groups associated with slow growth were identified in extenso in all soils tested with a specific assay, allowing to unmask them from the Mycobacterium whole genus, in which, as minority members, they would have remained undetected.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068648
PMCID: PMC3715504  PMID: 23874704
19.  Parasitic infection may be associated with discordant responses to QuantiFERON and tuberculin skin test in apparently healthy children and adolescents in a tuberculosis endemic setting, Ethiopia 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:265.
Background
M. tuberculosis remains one of the world’s deadliest pathogens in part because of its ability to establish persistent, latent infections, which can later reactivate to cause disease. In regions of the globe where disease is endemic, as much as 50% of the population is thought to be latently infected, complicating diagnosis and tuberculosis control. The tools most commonly used for diagnosis of latent M. tuberculosis infection are the tuberculin skin test and the newer interferon-gamma release assays, both of which rely on an antigen-specific memory response as an indicator of infection. It is clear that the two tests, do not always give concordant results, but the factors leading to this are only partially understood.
Methods
In this study we examined 245 healthy school children aged from 12 to 20 years from Addis Ababa, a tuberculosis-endemic region, characterised them with regard to response in the tuberculin skin test and QuantIFERON™ test and assessed factors that might contribute to discordant responses.
Results
Although concordance between the tests was generally fair (90% concordance), there was a subset of children who had a positive QuantIFERON™ result but a negative tuberculin skin test. After analysis of multiple parameters the data suggest that discordance was most strongly associated with the presence of parasites in the stool.
Conclusions
Parasitic gut infections are frequent in most regions where M. tuberculosis is endemic. This study, while preliminary, suggests that the tuberculin skin test should be interpreted with caution where this may be the case.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-265
PMCID: PMC3674899  PMID: 23738853
Latent tuberculosis; QuantiFERON; TST; Adolescents; Children; Parasites
20.  Low Prevalence of Leishmania Infection in Post-Epidemic Areas of Libo Kemkem, Ethiopia 
In Libo Kemkem (a district of Amhara region, Ethiopia), no cases of kala-azar had ever been reported until 2005 when an outbreak occurred. Over one-third of those cases were children under 15 years of age. The aim of the present study was to determine the prevalence of Leishmania infection in children aged 4–15 years. A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 2009. Children participating in the survey were selected using a three-stage cluster sampling method. A total of 386 children were included in the study. The overall prevalence of Leishmania infection (direct agglutination test- and/or rK39 immunochromatographic test- and/or leishmanin skin test-positive subjects) in this population was 1.02% (95% confidence interval = 0–4.54), and prevalence was higher in boys and children older than 12 years. Only one case of active disease was encountered. The results suggest that the conditions responsible for the outbreak no longer reign. However, active surveillance remains necessary.
doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2012.11-0436
PMCID: PMC3366538  PMID: 22665599
21.  Development of a proof of concept immunochromatographic lateral flow assay for point of care diagnosis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
BMC Research Notes  2013;6:202.
Background
Despite major public health initiatives and the existence of efficacious treatment regimes, tuberculosis (TB) remains a threat, particularly in resource-limited settings. A significant part of the problem is the difficulty of rapidly identifying infected individuals, and as a result, there has been renewed interest in developing better diagnostics for infection or disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Many of the existing tools, however, have limitations such as poor sensitivity or specificity, or the need for well-equipped laboratories to function effectively. Serodiagnostic approaches in particular have long drawn attention, due to their potential utility in large field studies, particularly in resource-poor settings. Unfortunately none of the serodiagnostic approaches have so far proven useful under field conditions.
Results
We screened a large panel of antigens with serodiagnostic potential by ELISA and selected a subpanel that was strongly and broadly recognised by TB patients, but not by controls. These antigens were then formulated into a simple immuno-chromatographic lateral flow assay format, suitable for field use, and tested against panels of plasma and blood samples from individuals with different clinical status (confirmed TB patients, household contacts, and apparently healthy community controls), recruited from Ethiopia (a highly TB-endemic country) and Turkey (a TB meso-endemic country). While specificity was good (97-100% in non TB-endemic controls), the sensitivity was not as high as expected (46-54% in pulmonary TB, 25-29% in extra-pulmonary TB).
Conclusions
Though below the level of sensitivity the consortium had set for commercial development, the assay specifically identified M. tuberculosis-infected individuals, and provides a valuable proof of concept.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-202
PMCID: PMC3680158  PMID: 23688126
IgG; Antibody; TB; Antigen; Serology; Diagnosis; ELISA
22.  New Biomarkers with Relevance to Leprosy Diagnosis Applicable in Areas Hyperendemic for Leprosy1 
Leprosy is not eradicable with currently available diagnostics or interventions as evidenced by its stable incidence. Early diagnosis of Mycobacterium leprae infection should therefore be emphasized in leprosy-research. It remains challenging to develop tests based on immunological biomarkers that distinguish individuals controlling bacterial replication from those developing disease.
To identify biomarkers for field-applicable diagnostics, we determined cytokines/chemokines induced by M. leprae proteins in blood of leprosy patients and controls (EC) from high leprosy-prevalence areas (Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia) and from South Korea where leprosy is not endemic anymore.
M. leprae- sonicate induced IFN-γ was similar for all groups, excluding M. leprae/IFN-γ as a diagnostic read-out. By contrast, ML2478 and ML0840 induced high IFN-γ concentrations in Bangladeshi EC, which were completely absent for South Korean controls. Importantly, ML2478/IFN-γ could indicate distinct degrees of M. leprae exposure, and thereby the risk of infection and transmission, in different parts of Brazilian and Ethiopian cities.
Notwithstanding these discriminatory responses, M. leprae proteins did not distinguish patients from EC in one leprosy endemic area based on IFN-γ. Analyses of additional cytokines/chemokines showed that M. leprae and ML2478 induced significantly higher concentrations of MCP-1, MIP-1β and IL-1β in patients compared to EC, whereas IP-10, like IFN-γ, differed between EC from areas with dissimilar leprosy prevalence.
This study identifies M. leprae-unique antigens, particularly ML2478, as biomarker tools to measure M. leprae exposure using IFN-γ or IP-10, and also shows that MCP-1, MIP-1β and IL-1β can potentially distinguish pathogenic immune responses from those induced during asymptomatic exposure to M. leprae.
doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1103452
PMCID: PMC3345093  PMID: 22504648
Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae); biomarkers; leprosy; multiplex analysis
23.  Usefulness of the rK39-Immunochromatographic Test, Direct Agglutination Test, and Leishmanin Skin Test for Detecting Asymptomatic Leishmania Infection in Children in a New Visceral Leishmaniasis Focus in Amhara State, Ethiopia 
In areas where visceral leishmaniasis is anthroponotic, asymptomatically infected patients may play a role in transmission. Additionally, the number of asymptomatic patients in a disease-endemic area will also provide information on transmission dynamics. Libo Kemkem and Fogera districts (Amhara State, Ethiopia) are now considered newly established areas to which visceral leishmaniasis is endemic. In selected villages in these districts, we conducted a study to assess the usefulness of different approaches to estimate the asymptomatic infection rate. Of 605 participants, the rK39 immunochromatographic test was able to detect asymptomatic infection in 1.5% (9 of 605), direct agglutination test in 5.3% (32 of 605), and leishmanin skin test in 5.6% (33 of 589); the combined use of serologic methods and leishmanin skin test enabled detecting asymptomatic infection in 10.1% (61 of 605). We conclude that the best option to detect asymptomatic infection in this new visceral leishmaniasis–endemic focus is the combined use of the direct agglutination test and the leishmanin skin test.
doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2012.11-0196
PMCID: PMC3335682  PMID: 22556076
24.  High Prevalence of Cryptococcal Antigenemia among HIV-infected Patients Receiving Antiretroviral Therapy in Ethiopia 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58377.
Background
Cryptococcal disease is estimated to be responsible for significant mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa; however, only scarce epidemiology data exists. We sought to evaluate the prevalence of and risk factors for cryptococcal antigenemia in Ethiopia.
Methods
Consecutive adult HIV-infected patients from two public HIV clinics in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia were enrolled into the study. A CD4 count ≤200 cells/μl was required for study participation. Patients receiving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) were not excluded. A cryptococcal antigen test was performed for all patients along with an interview, physical exam, and medical chart abstraction. Logistic regression analysis was used to assess risk factors for cryptococcal antigenemia.
Results
369 HIV-infected patients were enrolled; mean CD4 123 cells/μl and 74% receiving ART. The overall prevalence of cryptococcal antigenemia was 8.4%; 11% in patients with a CD4 count <100 cells/μl, 8.9% with CD4 100 to 150 cells/μl and 5.7% with CD4150-200 cell/μl. 84% of patients with cryptococcal antigenemia were receiving ART. In multivariable analysis, increasing age, self reported fever, CD4 count <100 cells/μl, and site of screening were associated with an increased risk of cryptococcal antigenemia. No individual or combination of clinical symptoms had optimal sensitivity or specificity for cryptococcal antigenemia.
Conclusion
Cryptococcal antigenemia is high in Ethiopia and rapid scale up of screening programs is needed. Screening should be implemented for HIV-infected patients with low CD4 counts regardless of symptoms or receipt of ART. Further study into the effect of location and environment on cryptococcal disease is warranted.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058377
PMCID: PMC3587601  PMID: 23469276
25.  Mycobacterial Lineages Causing Pulmonary and Extrapulmonary Tuberculosis, Ethiopia 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2013;19(3):460-463.
Molecular typing of 964 specimens from patients in Ethiopia with lymph node or pulmonary tuberculosis showed a similar distribution of Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains between the 2 disease manifestations and a minimal role for M. bovis. We report a novel phylogenetic lineage of M. tuberculosis strongly associated with the Horn of Africa.
doi:10.3201/eid1903.120256
PMCID: PMC3647644  PMID: 23622814
Tuberculosis and other mycobacteria; tuberculosis; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Mycobacterium bovis; bacteria; bovine; pulmonary tuberculosis; extrapulmonary tuberculosis; TB lymphadenitis; cervical lymph nodes; lymph nodes; lineage; zoonoses; zoonotic transmission; Ethiopia

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