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A novel Ehrlichia species in blood and Ixodes ornithorhynchi ticks from platypuses (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) in Queensland and Tasmania, Australia

Gofton, A.W., Loh, S-M, Barbosa, A.D.ORCID: 0000-0003-3289-1445, Paparini, A.ORCID: 0000-0002-1105-5184, Gillett, A., Macgregor, J., Oskam, C.L., Ryan, U.M.ORCID: 0000-0003-2710-9324 and Irwin, P.J.ORCID: 0000-0002-0006-8262 (2018) A novel Ehrlichia species in blood and Ixodes ornithorhynchi ticks from platypuses (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) in Queensland and Tasmania, Australia. Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases, 9 (2). pp. 435-442.

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Worldwide, Ehrlichia spp. are emerging infectious organisms of domestic animals and people, however, most Ehrlichia spp. naturally infect wildlife reservoirs causing mainly asymptomatic infections. Australian ecosystems have been under-explored for these potentially pathogenic organisms, and recent studies have identified a range of novel Ehrlichia, and their sister genera, Anaplasma and 'Candidatus Neoehrlichia' species, from native Australian ticks. We used bacterial 16S rRNA (16S) next-generation sequencing and genus-specific PCR to profile the bacterial communities in platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) blood samples and platypus ticks (Ixodes ornithorhynchi), and identified a high prevalence of Ehrlichia sequences. We also observed Ehrlichia-like intra-neutrophilic inclusions (morulae) in PCR-positive stained platypus blood films that were consistent in morphology with other Ehrlichia spp. Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of 16S (1343 bp), gltA (1004 bp), and groEL (1074 bp) gene sequences group the platypus Ehrlichia with 'Candidatus Ehrlichia khabarensis' from far-eastern Russia, and demonstrate that the platypus Ehrlichia is clearly distinct from all other Ehrlichia spp. Enough genetic divergence exists to delineate this platypus Ehrlichia as a separate species that we propose to designate 'Candidatus Ehrlichia ornithorhynchi'. There is no evidence that 'Candidatus Ehrlichia ornithorhynchi' causes disease in wild platypuses, however, the organism does seem to be widespread in Australia, being found in both Queensland and Tasmania. 'Candidatus Ehrlichia ornithorhynchi' is the second native Australian Ehrlichia described and adds to the rapidly growing diversity of recently described native Australian tick-borne bacteria.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier GmbH
Copyright: © 2017 Elsevier
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