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Opportunities in diagnostic and vaccine approaches to mitigate potential heartwater spreading and impact on the American Mainland

Vachiery N., Marcelino I., Martinez D., Lefrançois T.. 2013. In : Roth James A. (ed.), Richt Juergen A. (ed.), Morozov Igor A. (ed.). Vaccines and diagnostics for transboundary animal diseases, Ames, Iowa, 17-19 September 2012. Bâle : Karger, p. 191-200. (Developments in Biologicals, 135). International Symposium on Vaccines and Diagnostics for Transboundary Animal Diseases, 2012-09-17/2012-09-19, Ames (Etats-Unis).

Heartwater, caused by the Rickettsiales Ehrlichia ruminantium (ER), is a tropical tick-borne disease of wild and domestic ruminants, transmitted by Amblyomma ticks. It causes significant economic losses due to high mortality and the high cost of antibiotic treatment of affected animals, limiting herd productivity. It is present in sub-Saharan Africa, islands in the Indian Ocean and two Caribbean islands (Guadeloupe and Antigua) from where it threatens the American mainland due to risk of the spread of infected A. variegatum by migratory birds or by uncontrolled movement of animals. If an accidental introduction of a tick-free ER carrier animal occurs, autochthonous A. maculatum has proven to be a good experimental vector for heartwater. Modeling A. variegatum population dynamics has been developed, but further work is needed to predict favourable habitats and allow targeted surveillance. We overview here the advances in diagnostics, vaccines and epidemiology of heartwater and analyze the research gaps and needs to mitigate potential ER introduction and spread on the American mainland. Effective serologic ELISA tests allow prevalence studies, and several PCR-based diagnostic tests are currently available to detect ER in sick animals. However, the development of rapid assays, including multi-pathogen tests, would enhance the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of heartwater diagnosis. Several experimental vaccines (inactivated, attenuated and recombinant) are under development. Attenuated and inactivated vaccines are effective against homologous strains but their efficacy in the field is decreased due to broad antigenic diversity of ER. New molecular typing assays are now being used to study the genetic structure of ER populations worldwide, but the linking of genotyping to cross-protection is still not straightforward. Currently an inactivated vaccine would be the most appropriate vaccine for the American mainland due to its safety, the availability of a fully controlled bioprocess allowing ER mass production andthe possibility to design "regional cocktail vaccines". This would require the selection andisolation of Caribbean ER strains supported by data of molecular epidemiology studies in thisregion. Development of an universal recombinant vaccine requires increased knowledge of ERbiology, including virulence mechanisms. Comparison of virulent and attenuated strains using"omic approaches" is on-going and will be crucial to understand these mechanisms and todevelop improved vaccines.

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