Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis and Hepatozoon sp. in voles (Microtus spp.): occurrence and evidence for vertical transmission

Tołkacz et al. (2023). Scientific Reports 13 (1)
Ca. Neoehrlichia mikurensis
AbstractCandidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (CNM) and Hepatozoon spp. are important vector-borne parasites of humans and animals. CNM is a relatively recently discovered pathogen of humans. Hepatozoon are parasites of reptiles, amphibians and mammals, commonly found in rodents and carnivores worldwide. The present study aimed to determine the prevalence of CNM and Hepatozoon spp. in three species of Microtus and to assess the occurrence of vertical transmission in naturally-infected voles. Molecular techniques were used to detect pathogen DNA in blood and tissue samples of captured voles and their offspring. The prevalence of CNM in the vole community ranged 24–47% depending on Microtus species. The DNA of CNM was detected in 21% of pups from three litters of six infected Microtus dams (two Microtus arvalis and one M. oeconomus) and in 3/45 embryos (6.6%) from two litters of eight CNM-infected pregnant females. We detected Hepatozoon infection in 14% of M. arvalis and 9% of M. oeconomus voles. Hepatozoon sp. DNA was detected in 48.7% of pups from seven litters (6 M. arvalis and 1 M. oeconomus) and in two embryos (14.3%) obtained from one M. arvalis litter. The high prevalence of CNM infections in the Microtus spp. community may be a result of a relatively high rate of vertical transmission among naturally infected voles. Vertical transmission was also demonstrated for Hepatozoon sp. in M. arvalis and M. oeconomus. Our study underlines the significance of alternative routes of transmission of important vector-borne pathogens.
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