Validation of a method for the minimally-invasive measurement of physiological stress will help understanding of risk factors that may contribute to stress-associated events including recrudescence of Equid herpesvirus (EHV), which is anecdotally associated with sales consignment of pregnant Thoroughbred mares. In this study we compared two similar groups of late-gestation Thoroughbred broodmares on the same farm: a consigned Sales group (N?=?8) and a non-consigned Control group (N?=?6). The Sales mares were separated from their paddock companions and grouped prior to their preparation for, transport to, and return from the sales venue. Both groups were monitored by sampling at regular intervals from 5 days prior to until 14 days after the sales date (D0) to measure physiological stress in terms of changes in faecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM) concentrations, and for event-related viral recrudescence via daily body temperature measurements and periodic nasal swabs for PCR analysis for EHV-1 and -4 DNA.
Rhinoceros horn is now worth more, per unit weight, than gold, diamonds, or cocaine. Rhinoceros horn has been used in traditional Asian medicine as a presumed cure for a wide range of ailments. Rhinoceros poaching in South Africa has, on average, more than doubled each year over the past 5 years with the rapid economic growth in east and southeast Asia being assumed to be the primary factor driving the increased demand for horn. Here we report on the characterization of methods for genomic DNA extraction from rhinoceros horn and on DNA profiling systems for white (Ceratotherium simum) and black (Diceros bicornis) rhinoceros. The DNA profiling system described includes 22 short tandem repeat (STR), or microsatellite, markers and a gender marker (ZF1), which have been used previously in various studies on rhinoceros. Using a ? value of 0.1, a conservative estimate of random match probability in 5 white rhinoceros ranged from 1:7.3x10(6) to 1:3.0x10(8). Given that the total population of white rhinoceros is approximately 20,000 such random match probabilities indicate that the genotyping system described provides data which can be used for evidentiary purposes. Furthermore, the methods are appropriate for use in investigations involving trace amounts of rhinoceros horn and the matching of profiles obtained from seized rhinoceros horn with material collected from live animals or poached carcasses.
A study of the prevalence of African horse sickness in horses was conducted, using records from two private equine practices in Harare for the period 1998-2004. Results indicated a higher prevalence of the disease in horses in Zimbabwe in the late rainy season (March - May). Age of the horse was found to be a significant risk factor, with foals or yearlings appearing to be 1.80 times more likely to contract the disease compared with horses older than two years. The case fatality rate in foals or yearlings was also higher than in older age groups, but this difference was not significant. The vaccination status was an important risk factor, with vaccinated horses 0.12 times less likely to die from the disease compared with unvaccinated horses. Young, unvaccinated horses therefore seem to be the most susceptible to the disease and have greater chances of fatality. This study highlights the importance of adequately protecting horses against African horse sickness by providing immunisation through vaccination and discusses the need to review current vaccination strategies being practiced in Zimbabwe.
Blood samples collected from 503 suspect cases of African horse sickness (AHS) and another 503 from uninfected, unvaccinated South African horses, as well as 98 samples from horses from an AHS free country, were tested with an AHS virus (AHSV) specific duplex real-time reverse transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) assay and virus isolation (VI). The diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of this AHSV RT-qPCR assay and VI were estimated using a 2-test 2-population Bayesian latent class model which made no assumptions about the true infection status of the tested animals and allowed for the possibility of conditional dependence (correlation) in test results. Median diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of the AHSV RT-qPCR were 97.8% and 99.9%, respectively. Median diagnostic specificity of virus isolation was >99% whereas the estimated diagnostic sensitivity was 44.2%. The AHSV RT-qPCR assay provides for rapid, high-throughput analysis of samples, and is both analytically and diagnostically sensitive and specific. This assay is potentially highly useful for demonstrating freedom or infection of horses with AHSV, thus it is appropriate that its reproducibility be evaluated in other laboratories as a global standard for detection of AHSV.
Bluetongue is an economically important arboviral disease of ruminants that is transmitted by hematophagous Culicoides midges. In light of dramatic recent changes in the global distribution of bluetongue virus (BTV), the goals of this study were to re-evaluate the prevalence of BTV infection of cattle and abundance of Culicoides midges on individual dairy farms in California. A serosurvey of adult dairy cattle confirmed that BTV infection is prevalent throughout much of the state, although the coastal northwestern region remains free of infection and prevalence varies markedly among farms in the remainder of the state. Intensive sampling for one year of 4 farms in the northern Central Valley of California showed that the abundance of Culicoides midges was markedly different and coincided with the prevalence of BTV infection of sentinel cattle on each farm. Mean maximum and minimum temperatures and other meteorological parameters were similar on all 4 farms, thus we speculate that particular management practices were responsible for both the increased midge abundance and prevalence of BTV infection of cattle at individual farms. Specifically, it is concluded that variation in vector abundance at individual farms most likely is the result of waste-water lagoon and irrigation management practices, leading to higher BTV infection rates among livestock held on farms with more waste-water lagoons and greater acreage of land for waste-water irrigation.
Despite its important role as vector for African horse sickness virus (AHSV), very little information is available on the dissemination of this virus in Culicoides (Avaritia) imicola Kieffer (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae). This study reports on the applicability of a real-time quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) to detect AHSV in dissected midges. A total of 96 midges were fed on AHSV-infected blood, after which one test group was dissected into head/thorax and abdomen segments immediately after feeding and the other only after 10 days of incubation. The majority of the midges (96%) ingested the virus successfully and there was no significant difference between the virus concentration in the heads/thoraxes and the abdomens immediately after feeding. After incubation, virus was detected in 51% of the midges and it was confined to the abdomen in the majority of these. The fact that virus was detected only in the heads/thoraxes of four Culicoides midges after incubation suggests the presence of a mesenteronal escape barrier. Replication in the salivary glands was not shown. An increase of the mean virus concentration in the abdomen after incubation indicates localised viral replication. The real-time RT-qPCR is recommended for further studies investigating the replication and dissemination of AHSV in Culicoides midges.
Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are vectors of a variety of pathogens including African horse sickness virus (AHSV), a member of the family Reoviridae, genus Orbivirus. AHSV causes African horse sickness (AHS), an endemic disease of equids with an extremely high mortality rate in horses in sub-Saharan Africa. Culicoides (Avaritia) imicola Kieffer is considered to be the principal vector of AHSV and is the dominant Culicoides species in South Africa. Due to the global distribution of Culicoides vectors, there is a potential risk of AHS spreading from endemic areas to areas traditionally free of the disease, which could have a severe economical impact on the affected equine industry. As part of any risk assessment it is essential to monitor known vectors as well as potential vector species. In the present study, sampling of Culicoides insects was compared using overnight collections in the conventional Onderstepoort light trap and mechanical aspiration of midges at sunset from bait horses. Culicoides imicola was confirmed as the predominant species using both trapping methods. Other species, mainly Culicoides (Avaritia) bolitinos Meiswinkel and Culicoides (Avaritia) gulbenkiani Caeiro, were highly underrepresented in the light trap collections, but made a significant contribution to the mechanical aspiration catches. The time for optimal collection differed between the trapping methods, leading to the conclusion that mechanical aspiration is a useful addition to conventional light trap collection and possibly the better choice when investigating insect vectors. An infection rate of 1.14% was calculated for the midge population based on real-time quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) assays of collected Culicoides midges, which exceeds previous estimates. This is probably due to the increased sensitivity of the RT-qPCR assay used in this study as compared to the virus isolation assays used in previous studies. RT-qPCR-positive midges were present in midge pools obtained from both light trap and mechanical aspiration. Seven of the positive pools consisted of C. imicola only, four contained mixed species and one pool contained no C. imicola, suggesting the presence of AHSV in midges of other species.
Seventy EDTA blood samples collected from plains zebra (Equus quagga burchellii) and Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra) were screened for the presence of piroplasm parasite DNA using quantitative T. equi-specific and B. caballi-specific TaqMan real-time PCR (qPCR) tests. T. equi parasite DNA was detected in 60 samples, 19 of which were also positive for B. caballi. Approximately 1480bp of the piroplasm 18S rRNA gene was amplified and sequenced from 17 samples, while the V4 hypervariable region of the 18S rRNA gene was amplified, cloned and sequenced from 31 samples. BLASTN analysis revealed that all of the sequences obtained were most similar to T. equi genotypes and not B. caballi genotypes. Although Babesia parasites were present in some of these samples, as indicated by qPCR, the parasitaemia may have been too low to allow detection by cloning of PCR products from a mixed infection. Sequence analyses of both the full-length and the V4 hypervariable region of the T. equi 18S rRNA gene revealed the existence of 13 new T. equi sequences from zebra, confirming the existence of sequence heterogeneity in the rRNA genes of the parasites that cause equine piroplasmosis, and further suggesting that there may be additional, as yet unidentified, T. equi and B. caballi 18S rRNA sequences present in the horse and zebra populations in South Africa. The occurrence of previously unrecognized sequence variation could pose a potential problem in the implementation of diagnostic tests targeting the 18S rRNA gene.
Although a quantitative real-time PCR assay (qPCR) assay for the detection of Theileria equi has been developed and evaluated, it is possible that additional, as yet undetected 18S rRNA gene sequence variants may exist. A qPCR assay targeting a different gene, used in conjunction with the T. equi 18S rRNA qPCR assay, could assist in the detection of all T. equi genotypes in field samples. A T. equi ema-1-specific qPCR (Ueti et al., 2003) was tested on 107 South African field samples, 90 of which tested positive for T. equi antibody using the immuno-fluorescent antibody test (IFAT). The qPCR assay performed poorly, as T. equi was detected in only 67 of the 90 IFAT-positive field samples at quantification cycle (C(q)) values ranging from 27 to 39.95. Furthermore, a high C(q) value of 36.18 was obtained from DNA extracted from a South African in vitro-cultured T. equi WL isolate [1.38% parasitized erythrocytes (PE)] when a low C(q) value (indicative of a high T. equi DNA concentration) was expected. Approximately 600 bp of the ema-1 gene from 38 South African samples were sequenced and BLASTN analysis confirmed all sequences to be merozoite surface protein genes, with an identity of 87.1-100% to previously published T. equi ema-1 gene sequences. Alignment of the sequences revealed extensive sequence variations in the target regions of the primers and probes (Ueti et al., 2003), explaining the poor performance of the qPCR assay. Based on these observations, we developed a new TaqMan minor-groove binder (MGB) probe-based qPCR assay, targeting a more conserved region of the ema-1 gene. This assay was shown to be efficient and specific, and the detection limit, defined as the concentration at which 95% of T. equi-positive samples are detected, was determined to be 1.4 x 10(-4)% PE. The two ema-1 assays were compared by testing 41 South African field samples in parallel. The results suggested that the new assay was more sensitive than the original assay, as T. equi was detected in more samples and at lower C(q) values when the new assay was used. Phylogenetic analyses of the 18S rRNA gene sequences and ema-1 amino acid sequences from the same samples showed inconsistencies between the clades, indicating that the T. equi 18S rRNA genetic groups previously identified in South Africa may not represent distinct T. equi lineages. It is possible that the different T. equi ema-1 genotypes could be related to antigenic variability and pathogenicity and may be associated with clinical differences in equine piroplasmosis cases, but this remains to be elucidated.
Arthropod-transmitted viruses (Arboviruses) are important causes of disease in humans and animals, and it is proposed that climate change will increase the distribution and severity of arboviral diseases. Orbiviruses are the cause of important and apparently emerging arboviral diseases of livestock, including bluetongue virus (BTV), African horse sickness virus (AHSV), equine encephalosis virus (EEV), and epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV) that are all transmitted by haematophagous Culicoides insects. Recent changes in the global distribution and nature of BTV infection have been especially dramatic, with spread of multiple serotypes of the virus throughout extensive portions of Europe and invasion of the south-eastern USA with previously exotic virus serotypes. Although climate change has been incriminated in the emergence of BTV infection of ungulates, the precise role of anthropogenic factors and the like is less certain. Similarly, although there have been somewhat less dramatic recent alterations in the distribution of EHDV, AHSV, and EEV, it is not yet clear what the future holds in terms of these diseases, nor of other potentially important but poorly characterized Orbiviruses such as Peruvian horse sickness virus.
A competitive-inhibition enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (cELISA) developed for the detection of antibody specific for Babesia caballi was used to test sera collected from 1237 South African horses. None of these samples tested positive using the cELISA, although 63 samples tested positive for B. caballi antibody using the indirect fluorescent antibody test (IFAT). We therefore characterized the rap-1 gene that codes for the antigen (rhoptry-associated protein, RAP-1) used in the cELISA, from South African B. caballi isolates. Three sets of primers were designed to amplify the complete gene and flanking regions (approximately 1800 bp), but only one set of primers yielded PCR products, and we were only able to amplify a region at the 5 end of the gene (615 bp) from ten South African B. caballiin vitro-cultured isolates. Sequence data from seven of these were obtained. The sequences showed between 79% and 81% identity to B. caballirap-1 gene sequences that have been reported in the literature (accession numbers: AF092736 and AB017700). The GenomeWalker Universal kit (Clonetech) was used to amplify the regions flanking the 615bp B. caballirap-1 fragment from two South African isolates. Amplified products were cloned into the pGEM-T Easy vector and sequenced. The complete rap-1 gene sequence, comprising a single open reading frame of 1479 bp that encodes a protein consisting of 493 amino acids, was obtained from the two South African isolates. This sequence data was used to redesign the amplification primers and rap-1 homologues were obtained from a further eight isolates. BLASTP analysis indicated an amino acid identity of between 57.9% and 65.1% to the two RAP-1 protein sequences, AF092736 and AB017700, with most differences occurring at the carboxy-terminus. The amino acid sequence differences probably explain why it was not possible to detect B. caballi antibody in IFAT positive sera from South Africa using the cELISA. Redesigning the current cELISA using a conserved epitope of the RAP-1 antigen, or a more conserved protein as the target antigen, may overcome this problem.
A quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay using a TaqMan minor groove binder (MGB) probe was developed for the detection of Babesia caballi infection in equids from South Africa. Nine previously published sequences of the V4 hypervariable region of the B. caballi 18S rRNA gene were used to design primers and probes to target unique, conserved regions. The B. caballi TaqMan MGB qPCR assay was shown to be efficient and specific. The detection limit, defined as the concentration at which 95% of positive samples can be detected, was determined to be 0.000114% parasitized erythrocytes (PE). We further evaluated a previously reported Theileria equi-specific qPCR assay and showed that it was able to detect the 12 T. equi 18S rRNA sequence variants previously identified in South Africa. Both qPCR assays were tested on samples from two ponies experimentally infected with either T. equi or B. caballi. The qPCR assays were more sensitive than the indirect fluorescent antibody test (IFAT) and the reverse-line blot (RLB) during the early onset of the disease. The assays were subsequently tested on field samples collected from 41 horses, resident on three stud farms in the Northern Cape Province, South Africa. The IFAT detected circulating T. equi and B. caballi antibody in, respectively, 83% and 70% of the samples. The RLB detected T. equi parasite DNA in 73% of the samples, but none of the samples were positive for B. caballi, although 19 T. equi-positive samples also hybridized to the Babesia genus-specific probe. This could indicate a mixed T. equi and B. caballi infection in these samples, with either the B. caballi parasitaemia at a level below the detection limit of the B. caballi RLB probe, or the occurrence of a novel Babesia genotype or species. In contrast, the qPCR assays correlated fairly well with the IFAT. The B. caballi TaqMan MGB qPCR assay was able to detect B. caballi parasite DNA in 78% of the samples. The T. equi-specific qPCR assay could positively detect T. equi DNA in 80% of the samples. These results suggest that the qPCR assays are more sensitive than the RLB assay for the detection of T. equi and B. caballi infections in field samples.
A molecular epidemiological survey of the protozoal parasites that cause equine piroplasmosis was conducted using samples collected from horses and zebra from different geographical locations in South Africa. A total of 488 samples were tested for the presence of Theileria equi and/or Babesia caballi using the reverse line blot hybridization assay. Ten percent of the samples hybridized to the Theileria/Babesia genus-specific probe and not to the B. caballi or T. equi species-specific probes, suggesting the presence of a novel species or genotype. The small subunit of rRNA gene (18S; approximately 1600bp) was amplified and sequenced from 33 of these 488 samples. Sequences were compared with published sequences from the public sequence databases. Twelve distinct T. equi and six B. caballi 18S rRNA sequences were identified. Alignments demonstrated extensive sequence variation in the V4 hypervariable region of the 18S rRNA gene within T. equi. Sequence variation was also found in B. caballi 18S rRNA genes, although there was less variation than observed for T. equi. Phylogenetic analysis based on 18S rRNA gene sequences revealed three T. equi clades and two B. caballi clades in South Africa. The extent of sequence heterogeneity detected within T. equi and B. caballi 18S rRNA genes was unexpected since concerted evolution is thought to maintain homogeneity within repeated gene families, including rRNA genes, in eukaryotes. The findings reported here show that careful examination of variants of the 18S rRNA gene of T. equi and B. caballi is required prior to the development of molecular diagnostic tests to detect these parasites in horses. Species-specific probes must be in designed in regions of the gene that are both conserved within and unique to each species.
We describe the development and preliminary characterization of a recombinant canarypox virus vectored (ALVAC) vaccine for protective immunization of equids against African horse sickness virus (AHSV) infection. Horses (n=8) immunized with either of two concentrations of recombinant canarypox virus vector (ALVAC-AHSV) co-expressing synthetic genes encoding the outer capsid proteins (VP2 and VP5) of AHSV serotype 4 (AHSV-4) developed variable titres (<10-80) of virus-specific neutralizing antibodies and were completely resistant to challenge infection with a virulent strain of AHSV-4. In contrast, a horse immunized with a commercial recombinant canarypox virus vectored vaccine expressing the haemagglutinin genes of two equine influenza H3N8 viruses was seronegative to AHSV and following infection with virulent AHSV-4 developed pyrexia, thrombocytopenia and marked oedema of the supraorbital fossae typical of the "dikkop" or cardiac form of African horse sickness. AHSV was detected by virus isolation and quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction in the blood of the control horse from 8 days onwards after challenge infection whereas AHSV was not detected at any time in the blood of the ALVAC-AHSV vaccinated horses. The control horse seroconverted to AHSV by 2 weeks after challenge infection as determined by both virus neutralization and ELISA assays, whereas six of eight of the ALVAC-AHSV vaccinated horses did not seroconvert by either assay following challenge infection with virulent AHSV-4. These data confirm that the ALVAC-AHSV vaccine will be useful for the protective immunization of equids against African horse sickness, and avoids many of the problems inherent to live-attenuated AHSV vaccines.
Recent CEM outbreak reports reflect a novel epidemiologic manifestation with a markedly different risk association for transmission via artificial reproduction and subsequent to inadvertent importation of unapparent carrier stallions. Artificial breeding has an increased association with horizontal or fomite-associated transmission. Reported risk factors include inadequate biosecurity protocols at centralised breeding facilities associated with stallion management and methods of semen collection, processing and transport. Detection of carriers is based on traditional bacteriology from genital swabs and despite limitations inherent to Taylorella equigenitalis is currently the gold standard applied in all international trade and movement protocols. These limitations are reported to be overcome by PCR assays improving diagnostic sensitivity and specificity, practicality, turn-around times, through-put and cost efficacy. Molecular methods have increased understanding of the Taylorelleae, facilitate epidemiologic surveillance and outbreak control strategies. Validation and international regulatory acceptance of a robust PCR-based assay and the undefined risks in association with cryopreserved semen and embryos are future areas warranting further investigation.
Arthropod-borne apicomplexan pathogens that cause asymptomatic persistent infections present a significant challenge due to their life-long transmission potential. Although anti-microbials have been used to ameliorate acute disease in animals and humans, chemotherapeutic efficacy for apicomplexan pathogen elimination from a persistently infected host and removal of transmission risk is largely unconfirmed. The recent re-emergence of the apicomplexan Theileria equi in U.S. horses prompted testing whether imidocarb dipropionate was able to eliminate T. equi from naturally infected horses and remove transmission risk. Following imidocarb treatment, levels of T. equi declined from a mean of 10(4.9) organisms/ml of blood to undetectable by nested PCR in 24 of 25 naturally infected horses. Further, blood transfer from treated horses that became nested PCR negative failed to transmit to naïve splenectomized horses. Although these results were consistent with elimination of infection in 24 of 25 horses, T. equi-specific antibodies persisted in the majority of imidocarb treated horses. Imidocarb treatment was unsuccessful in one horse which remained infected as measured by nested PCR and retained the ability to infect a naïve recipient via intravenous blood transfer. However, a second round of treatment eliminated T. equi infection. These results support the utility of imidocarb chemotherapy for assistance in the control and eradication of this tick-borne pathogen. Successful imidocarb dipropionate treatment of persistently infected horses provides a tool to aid the global equine industry by removing transmission risk associated with infection and facilitating international movement of equids between endemic and non-endemic regions.
Bluetongue (BT) is an important viral disease of ruminants that is transmitted by hematophagous Culicoides midges. We examined the seasonal patterns of abundance and infection of Culicoides sonorensis at four dairy farms in the northern Central Valley of California to develop estimates of risk for bluetongue virus (BTV) transmission to cattle at each farm. These four farms were selected because of their similar meteorological conditions but varying levels of vector abundance and BTV infection of cattle. C. sonorensis midges were collected weekly at each farm during the seasonal transmission period, using three different trapping methods: traps baited with either carbon dioxide (CO(2)) alone or traps with CO(2) and UV light, and by direct aspiration of midges from sentinel cattle. Analysis of BTV-infected midges using group and serotype-specific quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) assays confirmed that BTV serotypes 10, 11, 13 and 17 are all present in the region, but that midge infection rates and the number of BTV serotypes circulating differed markedly among the individual farms. Furthermore, more serotypes of BTV were present in midges than in sentinel cattle at individual farms where BTV circulated, and the virus was detected at each farm in midges prior to detection in cattle. BTV infection rates were remarkably lower among female C. sonorensis midges collected by CO(2) traps with UV light than among midges collected by either animal-baited aspirations or in CO(2) traps without light. A subsample of female midges examined from each collection method showed no overall differences in the proportion of female midges that had previously fed on a host. Findings from this study confirm the importance of using sensitive surveillance methods for both midge collection and virus detection in epidemiological studies of BTV infection, which is especially critical if the data are to be used for development of mathematical models to predict the occurrence of BTV infection of livestock.
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