Tick-borne infectious diseases represent a rising threat both for human and animal health, since they are emerging worldwide. Among the bacterial infections, Anaplasma phagocytophilum has been largely neglected in Europe. Despite its diffusion in ticks and animals, the ecoepidemiology of its genetic variants is not well understood. The latest studies identify four ecotypes of Anaplasma phagocytophilum in Europe, and only ecotype I has shown zoonotic potential. The aim of the present study was to investigate the genetic variants of Anaplasma phagocytophilum in wild ungulates, the leading reservoir species, and in feeding ticks, the main vector of infection. The analyzed samples were collected in northeastern Italy, the same area where the first Italian human cases of anaplasmosis in the country were reported. Using biomolecular tools and phylogenetic analysis, ecotypes I and II were detected in both ticks (Ixodes ricinus species) and wild ungulates. Specifically, ecotype II was mainly detected in roe deer and related ticks; and ecotype I, the potentially zoonotic variant, was detected in Ixodes ricinus ticks and also in roe deer, red deer, chamois, mouflon, and wild boar. These findings reveal not only the wide diffusion of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, but also the presence of zoonotic variants. Anaplasma phagocytophilum (A. phagocytophilum) is a tick-borne pathogen causing disease in both humans and animals. Human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) is an emerging disease, but despite the remarkable prevalence in European ticks and wild animals, human infection appears underdiagnosed. Several genetic variants are circulating in Europe, including the zoonotic ecotype I. This study investigated A. phagocytophilum occurrence in wild ungulates and their ectoparasites in an area where HGA has been reported. Blood samples from wild ungulates and ectoparasites were screened by biomolecular methods targeting the mps2 gene. The groEL gene was amplified and sequenced to perform genetic characterization and phylogenetic analysis. A total of 188 blood samples were collected from different wild ungulates species showing an overall prevalence of 63.8% (88.7% in wild ruminants and 3.6% in wild boars). The prevalence of A. phagocytophilum DNA in ticks (manly Ixodes ricinus), and keds collected from wild ruminants was high, reflecting the high infection rates obtained in their hosts. Among ticks collected from wild boars (Hyalomma marginatum and Dermacentor marginatus) no DNA was detected. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated the presence of ecotype I and II. To date, this is the first Italian report of ecotype I in alpine chamois, mouflon, and wild boar species. These findings suggest their role in HGA epidemiology, and the high prevalence detected in this study highlights that this human tick-borne disease deserves further attention.

Ecotyping of Anaplasma Phagocytophilum from wild ungulates and ticks shows circulation of zoonotic strains in northeastern Italy

Grassi L.;Franzo G.;Martini M.;Mondin A.;Cassini R.;Drigo M.;Pasotto D.;Vidorin E.;Menandro M. L.
2021

Abstract

Tick-borne infectious diseases represent a rising threat both for human and animal health, since they are emerging worldwide. Among the bacterial infections, Anaplasma phagocytophilum has been largely neglected in Europe. Despite its diffusion in ticks and animals, the ecoepidemiology of its genetic variants is not well understood. The latest studies identify four ecotypes of Anaplasma phagocytophilum in Europe, and only ecotype I has shown zoonotic potential. The aim of the present study was to investigate the genetic variants of Anaplasma phagocytophilum in wild ungulates, the leading reservoir species, and in feeding ticks, the main vector of infection. The analyzed samples were collected in northeastern Italy, the same area where the first Italian human cases of anaplasmosis in the country were reported. Using biomolecular tools and phylogenetic analysis, ecotypes I and II were detected in both ticks (Ixodes ricinus species) and wild ungulates. Specifically, ecotype II was mainly detected in roe deer and related ticks; and ecotype I, the potentially zoonotic variant, was detected in Ixodes ricinus ticks and also in roe deer, red deer, chamois, mouflon, and wild boar. These findings reveal not only the wide diffusion of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, but also the presence of zoonotic variants. Anaplasma phagocytophilum (A. phagocytophilum) is a tick-borne pathogen causing disease in both humans and animals. Human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) is an emerging disease, but despite the remarkable prevalence in European ticks and wild animals, human infection appears underdiagnosed. Several genetic variants are circulating in Europe, including the zoonotic ecotype I. This study investigated A. phagocytophilum occurrence in wild ungulates and their ectoparasites in an area where HGA has been reported. Blood samples from wild ungulates and ectoparasites were screened by biomolecular methods targeting the mps2 gene. The groEL gene was amplified and sequenced to perform genetic characterization and phylogenetic analysis. A total of 188 blood samples were collected from different wild ungulates species showing an overall prevalence of 63.8% (88.7% in wild ruminants and 3.6% in wild boars). The prevalence of A. phagocytophilum DNA in ticks (manly Ixodes ricinus), and keds collected from wild ruminants was high, reflecting the high infection rates obtained in their hosts. Among ticks collected from wild boars (Hyalomma marginatum and Dermacentor marginatus) no DNA was detected. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated the presence of ecotype I and II. To date, this is the first Italian report of ecotype I in alpine chamois, mouflon, and wild boar species. These findings suggest their role in HGA epidemiology, and the high prevalence detected in this study highlights that this human tick-borne disease deserves further attention.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11577/3377558
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