Inability of a Variant Strain of Anaplasma phagocytophilum to Infect Mice

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Nymphal Ixodes scapularis ticks were collected from several sites in Rhode Island. Polymerase chain reaction and DNA sequencing were used to determine the presence and prevalence of Anaplasma phagocytophilum human agent (AP-ha) and a genetic variant not associated with human disease (AP-variant 1). The remaining ticks from each cohort were allowed to feed to repletion on either white-footed (Peromyscus leucopus) or DBA/2 (Mus musculus) mice. The engorged ticks and murine blood samples were evaluated for the presence of AP-ha and AP-variant 1. Although a high percentage of the infecting ticks harbored AP-variant 1, only AP-ha was amplified from the murine blood samples. Additional ticks were fed on immunocompromised SCID mice, and, again, only AP-ha was capable of establishing an infection, and only AP-ha could be detected by xenodiagnosis. These data suggest that AP-variant 1 cannot establish an infection in mice, and we propose that AP-variant 1 has an alternative natural reservoir, possibly white-tailed deer.

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Journal of Infectious Diseases