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Concept: Rickettsiales


Rickettsial agents, including those in the genera Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Neorickettsia, and Rickettsia, are important and common vector-borne pathogens of dogs and cats. Disease induced by these organisms ranges from clinically inapparent to severe and potentially fatal. However, laboratory confirmation of a rickettsial etiology can be complicated by a number of factors, including the wide spectrum of disease induced by these organisms, an often low and widely fluctuating level of organism present in infected animals, cross-reactions on serologic and molecular assays, and the presence of co-infections. Correct diagnosis is most likely to be reached when multiple diagnostic strategies, including careful microscopic examination of stained blood films or tissues, both specific and broad serologic tests, and a suite of molecular detection assays, are used in concert. Accurate interpretation of diagnostic tests requires awareness of the likelihood for multiple agents, including novel organisms, to be responsible for the results seen in a given patient. This review provides an overview of current strategies used to diagnose rickettsial infections in dogs and cats.

Concepts: Bacteria, Biology, Virus, Diagnosis, Infection, Greek loanwords, Rickettsiales, Rickettsia


Tick-borne diseases are the most common vector-borne diseases in the United States, with serology being the primary method of diagnosis. We developed the first multiplex, array-based assay for serodiagnosis of tick-borne diseases called the TBD-Serochip. The TBD-Serochip was designed to discriminate antibody responses to 8 major tick-borne pathogens present in the United States, including Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia microti, Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia miyamotoi, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Rickettsia rickettsii, Heartland virus and Powassan virus. Each assay contains approximately 170,000 12-mer linear peptides that tile along the protein sequence of the major antigens from each agent with 11 amino acid overlap. This permits accurate identification of a wide range of specific immunodominant IgG and IgM epitopes that can then be used to enhance diagnostic accuracy and integrate differential diagnosis into a single assay. To test the performance of the TBD-Serochip, we examined sera from patients with confirmed Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, and Powassan virus disease. We identified a wide range of specific discriminatory epitopes that facilitated accurate diagnosis of each disease. We also identified previously undiagnosed infections. Our results indicate that the TBD-Serochip is a promising tool for a differential diagnosis not available with currently employed serologic assays for TBDs.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Protein, Bacteria, Rickettsiales, Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, Zoonoses


Patients seeking medical care with erythema migrans or flu-like symptoms after suspected or observed tick bite in the southeast of Sweden and previously investigated for Borrelia spp. and/or Anaplasma sp. were retrospectively examined for serological evidence of rickettsial infection (Study 1). Twenty of 206 patients had IgG and/or IgM antibodies to Rickettsia spp. equal to or higher than the cut-off titre of 1:64. Seven of these 20 patients showed seroconversion indicative of recent or current infection and 13 patients had titres compatible with past infection, of which five patients were judged as probable infection. Of 19 patients with medical records, 11 were positive for Borrelia spp. as well, and for Anaplasma sp., one was judged as positive. Five of the 19 patients had antibodies against all three pathogens. Erythema migrans or rash was observed at all combinations of seroreactivity, with symptoms including fever, muscle pain, headache and respiratory problems. The results were compared by screening an additional 159 patients (Study 2) primarily sampled for the analysis of Borrelia spp. or Mycoplasma pneumoniae. Sixteen of these patients were seroreactive for Rickettsia spp., of which five were judged as recent or current infection. Symptoms of arthritis, fever, cough and rash were predominant. In 80 blood donors without clinical symptoms, approximately 1 % were seroreactive for Rickettsia spp., interpreted as past infection. The study shows that both single and co-infections do occur, which illustrate the complexity in the clinical picture and a need for further studies to fully understand how these patients should best be treated.

Concepts: Immune system, Virus, Rickettsiales, Symptoms, Influenza, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Common cold


Oceanic ecosystems are dominated by minute microorganisms that play a major role in food webs and biogeochemical cycles (1) . Many microorganisms thrive in the dilute environment due to their capacity to locate, attach to, and use patches of nutrients and organic matter (2,3) . We propose that some free-living planktonic bacteria have traded their ability to stick to nutrient-rich organic particles for a non-stick cell surface that helps them evade predation by mucous filter feeders. We used a combination of in situ sampling techniques and next-generation sequencing to study the biological filtration of microorganisms at the phylotype level. Our data indicate that some marine bacteria, most notably the highly abundant Pelagibacter ubique and most other members of the SAR 11 clade of the Alphaproteobacteria, can evade filtration by slipping through the mucous nets of both pelagic and benthic tunicates. While 0.3 µm polystyrene beads and other similarly-sized bacteria were efficiently filtered, SAR11 members were not captured. Reversed-phase chromatography revealed that most SAR11 bacteria have a much less hydrophobic cell surface than that of other planktonic bacteria. Our data call for a reconsideration of the role of surface properties in biological filtration and predator-prey interactions in aquatic systems.In situ sampling reveals that members of the SAR11 clade show significantly lower retention by mucous filter feeders, and that this is probably due to their reduced hydrophobic cell surface, suggesting that cell surface properties are important factors in predator-prey interactions.

Concepts: Archaea, Organism, Predation, Ecology, Pelagibacter ubique, Rickettsiales, SAR11 clade, Proteobacteria


Tick-borne rickettsiae are considered to be emerging, but data about their presence in western Europe are scarce. Ixodes ricinus ticks, the most abundant and widespread tick species in western Europe, were collected and tested for the presence of several tick-borne pathogens in western France, a region never previously explored in this context. There was a high tick abundance with a mean of 4 females, 4.5 males, and 23.3 nymphs collected per hour per collector. Out of 622 tested ticks, specific PCR amplification showed the presence of tick symbionts as well as low prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi (0.8%), Bartonella spp. (0.17%), and Anaplasma phagocytophilum (0.09%). The most prevalent pathogen was Rickettsia helvetica (4.17%). This is the first time that this bacteria has been detected in ticks in this region, and this result raises the possibility that bacteria other than those classically implicated may be involved in rickettsial diseases in western France.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Rickettsiales, Rickettsia, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Pathogen, France


Seasonal outbreaks of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) with high case fatality have been occurring in Gorakhpur division in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, India, for more than three decades. Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) accounted for <10% of AES cases, while the etiology of the remaining cases remained largely unknown. Investigations conducted during the 2014 and 2015 outbreaks indicated Orientia tsutsugamushi (Haruo Hayashi 1920) (Norio Ogata 1929) Tamura et al. 1995 (Rickettsiales: Rickettsiaceae) as the etiology in about 60% of AES cases. Hospital-based surveillance studies indicated that about one-fifth of the patients with acute febrile illness were due to scrub typhus. Further studies are required to identify the etiology of about a third of AES cases that test negative for scrub typhus, JEV, or dengue.

Concepts: Greek loanwords, Rickettsiales, Rickettsia, Encephalitis, Uttar Pradesh, Scrub typhus, Orientia tsutsugamushi, Gorakhpur


Strains of Rickettsia rickettsii, the causative agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), differ dramatically in virulence despite >99% genetic homology. Spotted fever group (SFG) rickettsiae produce two immunodominant outer membrane proteins, rickettsial OmpA (rOmpA) and rOmpB, which are conserved throughout the SFG and thought to be fundamental to pathogenesis. rOmpA is present in all virulent strains of R. rickettsii but is not produced in the only documented avirulent strain, Iowa, due to a premature stop codon. Here we report the creation of an isogenic ompA mutant in the highly virulent strain Sheila Smith by insertion of intronic RNA to create a premature stop codon 312 bp downstream of the 6,747-bp open reading frame initiation site (int312). Targeted insertion was accomplished using an LtrA group II intron retrohoming system. Growth and entry rates of Sheila Smith ompA::int312 in Vero cells remained comparable to those of the wild type. Virulence was assessed in a guinea pig model by challenge with 100 PFU of either ompA::int312 Sheila Smith or the wild type, but no significant difference in either fever peak (40.5°C) or duration (8 days) were shown between the wild type and the knockout. The ability to disrupt genes in a site-specific manner using an LtrA group II intron system provides an important new tool for evaluation of potential virulence determinants in rickettsial disease research.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Virus, Rickettsiales, Rickettsia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Rickettsia rickettsii


In this study, we attempted to detect Rickettsia, Coxiella and Anaplasma bacteria in one hundred and fourteen-Dermacentor and thirty three-Amblyomma unfed adult ticks that were collected from under leaves along animal trails at different places across Thailand. PCR amplification was used to identify bacterial infection with general conserved sequences of bacteria. The results revealed single infection in Amblyomma testudinarium ticks with Rickettsia (24%) and Coxiella (6%). Anaplasma bacteria were often detected in Dermacentor auratus ticks (32%). Coxiella spp. were detected in Dermacentor atrosignatus (6%) and D. auratus ticks (3%) in this study. Moreover, we found co-infection by Coxiella and Rickettsia bacteria (39%) in Am. testudinarium. In contrast, D. atrosignatus ticks were co-infected with Coxiella and Anaplasma bacteria (3%) and Dermacentor compactus ticks were co-infected with Rickettsia and Anaplasma spp. (25%). Interestingly, Am. testudinarium ticks (12%) were found for the first time to exhibit triple infection by these three bacteria. Phylogenetic studies showed the rickettsiae from ticks causing both single and multiple infections had sequence similarity with spotted fever group rickettsial strains, including Rickettsia massilliae, R. raoultii and R. tamurae. In addition, the phylogenetic analysis of the 16S rRNA gene of Coxiella bacteria showed that they were closely grouped with Coxiella endosymbionts in both Dermacentor and Amblyomma. Moreover, the Anaplasma identified in a D. auratus tick was grouped in the same clade with the pathogenic bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Bacterial co-infections in Dermacentor and Amblyomma ticks may cause co-transmission of some tick-borne microorganisms (pathogen and endosymbiont, whether enhance or reduce) in humans and animals and they could affect medical and veterinary health.

Concepts: Bacteria, Microbiology, Virus, Infection, Rickettsiales, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Pathogen, 16S ribosomal RNA


Domestic dogs are not native to sub-Saharan Africa, which may account for their susceptibility to Babesia rossi, of which endemic black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas) are natural reservoirs. There is virtually no information on the occurrence of potentially pathogenic haemogregarines (e.g. Hepatozoon canis) or even rickettsial bacteria (e.g. Ehrlichia spp. and Anaplasma spp.) in indigenous canids in sub-Saharan Africa. Such organisms could pose a risk to domestic dogs, as well as to populations of endangered indigenous canid species.

Concepts: Rickettsiales, Dog, Canidae, Jackal, Coyote, Canis, Black-backed Jackal, Side-striped Jackal


Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an obligate intracellular bacterium and causes febrile illness in humans and livestock. A 49-year-old woman was suffering from feverish symptom, fatigue, arthralgia, general body pain, and anorexia for 2 weeks. Later, she visited Bayan Nur Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Hospital in Inner Mongolia, China. Molecular-based diagnostic analysis of the patient’s blood revealed that A. phagocytophilum p44 DNA was positive, but Brucella omp31, spotted fever group Rickettsia gltA, Orientia tsutsugamushi 16S rDNA, and Ehrlichia p28 were negative. The amino acid sequences of 9 A. phagocytophilum p44 clones obtained from the patient shared 44-100% similarity among them and closely related to those of previously-identified p44 clones from canis familiaris (accession no. KJV64194) and from Ixodes persulcatus tick (no. BAN28309). Serological tests using the patient’s serum showed that IgM and IgG titers to A. phagocytophilum antigens were 160 and 20, respectively, determined by indirect immunofluorescence assay and the reaction to recombinant P44 proteins (rP44-1, rP44-18ES, and/or rP44-47) were confirmed by Western blot analysis. Thus, the results obtained in this study strongly suggests that the patient was infected with A. phagocytophilum. To our knowledge, this is a first case of human anaplasomosis infection in Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Amino acid, Infection, Rickettsiales, Rickettsia, Immunofluorescence, Inner Mongolia