Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Demonstration of transplacental transmission of a human isolate of Anaplasma phagocytophilum in an experimentally infected sheep.

Abstract

Anaplasma phagocytophilum, first identified as a pathogen of sheep in Europe, more recently has been recognized as an emerging tick-borne pathogen of humans in the U.S. and Europe. Transmission of A. phagocytophilum is reported to be by ticks, primarily of the genus Ixodes. While mechanical and transplacental transmission of the type genus organism, A. marginale, occur in addition to tick transmission, these modes of transmission have not been considered for A. phagocytophilum. Recently, we developed a sheep model for studying host-tick-pathogen interactions of the human NY-18 A. phagocytophilum isolate. Sheep were susceptible to infection with this human isolate and served as a source of infection for I. scapularis ticks, but they did not display clinical signs of disease, and the pathogen was not apparent in stained blood smears. In the course of these experiments, one sheep unexpectedly gave birth to a lamb 5 weeks after being experimentally infected by inoculation with the pathogen propagated in HL-60 cells. The lamb was depressed and not feeding and was subsequently euthanized 18 h after birth. Tissues were collected at necropsy for microscopic examination and PCR to confirm A. phagocytophilum infection. At necropsy, the stomach contained colostrum, the spleen was moderately enlarged and thickened with conspicuous lymphoid follicles, and mesenteric lymph nodes were mildly enlarged and contained moderate infiltrates of eosinophils and neutrophils. Blood, spleen, heart, skin and cervical and mesenteric lymph nodes tested positive for A. phagocytophilum by PCR, and sequence analysis confirmed that the lamb was infected with the NY-18 isolate. Transplacental transmission should therefore be considered as a means of A. phagocytophilum transmission and may likely contribute to the epidemiology of tick-borne fever in sheep and other mammals, including humans.