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News Article

One Health study of tick-borne diseases in Mongolia


Study finds high seroprevalence of Anaplasma spp. and spotted fever group Rickettsia in humans and livestock.

To better understand the epidemiology of tick-borne disease in Mongolia, a comprehensive seroprevalence study was conducted investigating exposure to Anaplasma spp. and spotted fever group (SFG) Rickettsia spp. in nomadic herders and their livestock across three provinces from 2014 to 2015.

Dr. Michael von Fricken spent a year living in Ulaanbataar as a postdoc with Duke University, under Dr. Greg Gray, working alongside veterinarians from the Institute of Veterinary Medicine and the National Center for Zoonotic Diseases in Mongolia. Now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Global and Community Health at George Mason University, von Fricken and his colleagues recently published their findings in Acta Tropica.

This study is unique given the under-studied target population of Mongolian herders, and the diverse landscapes covered, ranging from the arid Gobi region to the south to the Central Steppe and Altai Mountains to the north. In this study, von Fricken and his team tested serum for antibodies indicative of previous exposure to Anaplasma spp. and SFG Rickettsia spp.

In humans, Rickettsia infections typically cause fever, rash, abdominal pain, and may cause death due to heart and kidney failure in more severe infections. While SFG Rickettsia species are non-pathogenic in livestock, Anaplasma spp. can cause weight loss, fever, spontaneous abortion, and even death in infected livestock. One species in particular, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, the causative agent of Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis, can result in kidney failure if left untreated.

"By relying on One Health methodologies, we are investigating the broader implications for risk of disease transmission. That includes not just human health, but that of livestock and the environments they live in," von Fricken explained. "This makes for much richer datasets that can be used to identify key factors driving disease exposures that may be missed using siloed research approaches."

The research team detected high rates of previous Anaplasma spp. and SFG Rickettsia in their human and livestock samples. Humans were significantly more likely to have been exposed to a tick-borne disease in the northern provinces of Mongolia compared to samples collected from the Gobi Desert region.

"Findings from this study make a case for expanded tick-borne disease research in northern Mongolia, as it appears to be a hot spot for pathogen exposure, which is something we plan to investigate with partners in Mongolia."

While the prevalence of exposure to these diseases in some regions has been documented, the presence in Terelj National Park (in Tov province) is of particular concern, as it is a common international destination for hiking and tourism.

Read article: Estimated seroprevalence of Anaplasma spp. and spotted fever group Rickettsia exposure among herders and livestock in Mongolia by Michael E. von Fricken, Sukhbaatar Lkhagvatseren, Bazartseren Boldbaatar, Pagbajab Nymadawa, Thomas A. Weppelmann, Bekh-Ochir Baigalmaa, Benjamin D. Anderson, Megan E. Reller, Paul M. Lantos and Gregory C. Gray, published in Acta Tropica (2018) vol. 177, pp. 179-185, doi: 10.1016/j.actatropica.2017.10.015

Article details

  • Date
  • 22 November 2017
  • Source
  • George Mason University
  • Subject(s)
  • Food Animals