Visual Universitätsmedizin Mainz

Genetic variability and immunological control of Anaplasma phagocytophilum (von Loewenich Laboratory)

Current Research

Genetic variability of Anaplasma phagocytophilum

Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an obligat intracellular bacterium that replicates in neutrophil granulocytes and causes febrile disease in humans and animals. In Europe, it is transmitted by Ixodes ricinus ticks. It In contrast to North America, human granulocytic anaplasmosis is a rare disease in Europe. Further, cross-infection experiments showed that A. phagocytophilum isolates of distinct host origin are not uniformly infectious for heterologous hosts. This led to several approaches of genetic characterization of A. phagocytophilum strains looking for molecular markers that could be associated with geographic origin or host species. Since a variety of target genes was used previously, we developed a standardized multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme for A. phagocytophilum ( We could show that all strains from humans, dogs and horses belonged to the same clonal complex. Since granulocytic anaplasmosis in these animals is often diagnosed in Europe, most human cases might not be recognized. We currently characterize further strains by means of MLST and try to sequence whole genomes.

Immunological control of Anaplasma phagocytophilum

Since A. phagocytophilum replicates in a main cell of the innate immune system, it is used as model organism to study the immunological control of obligat intracellular pathogens. We showed using the mouse model that the control in the early phase of infection is IFN-γ-dependent. In contrast, CD4+ T-cells are indispensable for bacterial elimination. To date, the effector mechanisms used by CD4+ T-cells are unclear because mice with defects for Th1 cytokines, perforin and Fas/Fas ligand were fully able to clear the infection. Therefore, we are studying in vitro whether a direct interaction between CD4+ T-cells and A. phagocytophilum infected granulocytes inhibits bacterial replication. For this purpose we use in vitro generated murine neutrophil granulocytes. Further, we use granulocytes defective for MHC I and MHC II to analyze whether antigen presentation by neutrophils is need for CD4+ T-cell dependent control. Respective gene-deficient cell lines are used to study whether neutrophils itself contribute to the defense against A. phagocytophilum.

Lab Members

OA PD Dr. med. von Loewenich
OA PD Dr. med. Friederike von Loewenich
Function: Principal Investigator

06131 17-9350
06131 17-9234

Denis Langenwalder
Function: Medical Doctoral Student

06131 / 17-9168
06131 / 17-9234


Kerz T., Beyer C., Mole D., Oswald S., Frauenknecht K., von Loewenich F. D., Schwanz T., Abscess-forming Fungal Encephalitis due to C-bantiana in an immunosuppressed Patient. NERVENARZT. 2016; 87(2): 191-+.  


Wardecki Tina, Broetz Elke, De Ford Christian, von Loewenich Friederike D., Rebets Yuriy, Tokovenko Bogdan, Luzhetskyy Andriy, Merfort Irmgard. Endophytic Streptomyces in the traditional medicinal plant Arnica montana L.: secondary metabolites and biological activity. ANTONIE VAN LEEUWENHOEK INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF GENERAL AND MOLECULAR MICROBIOLOGY. 2015; 108(2): 391-402.


Aardema Matthew L., von Loewenich Friederike D.. Varying influences of selection and demography in host-adapted populations of the tick-transmitted bacterium, Anaplasma phagocytophilum. BMC EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY. 2015; 15.

Smrdel Katja Strasek, von Loewenich Friederike D., Petrovec Miroslav, Zupanc Tatjana Avsic. Diversity of ankA and msp4 genes of Anaplasma phagocytophilum in Slovenia. TICKS AND TICK-BORNE DISEASES. 2015; 6(2): 164-166.


Gussmann K., Czech C., Hermann M., Schaarschmidt-Kiener D., von Loewenich F. D.. Anaplasma phagocytophilum infection in a horse from Switzerland with severe neurological symptoms. SCHWEIZER ARCHIV FUR TIERHEILKUNDE. 2014; 156(7): 345-348.


Haertwig V., von Loewenich F. D., Schulze C., Straubinger R. K., Daugschies A., Dyachenko V.. Detection of Anaplasma phagocytophilum in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) from Brandenburg, Germany. TICKS AND TICK-BORNE DISEASES. 2014; 5(3): 277-280.


Schwab L., Goroncy L., Palaniyandi S., Gautam S., Triantafyllopoulou A., Mocsai A., Reichardt W., Karlsson F. J., Radhakrishnan S. V., Hanke K., Schmitt-Graeff A., Freudenberg M., von Loewenich F. D., Wolf P., Leonhardt F., Baxan N., Pfeifer D., Schmah O., Schoenle A., Martin S. F., Mertelsmann R., Duyster J., Finke J., Prinz M., Henneke P., Haecker H., Hildebrandt G. C., Haecker G., Zeiser R.. Neutrophil granulocytes recruited upon translocation of intestinal bacteria enhance graft-versus-host disease via tissue damage. NATURE MEDICINE. 2014; 20(6): 648-654.


Huhn C., Winter C., Wolfsperger T., Wueppenhorst N., Smrdel K. S., Skuballa J., Pfaefle M., Petney T., Silaghi C., Dyachenko V., Pantchev N., Straubinger R. K., Schaarschmidt-Kiener D., Ganter M., Aardema M. L., von Loewenich F. D.. Analysis of the Population Structure of Anaplasma phagocytophilum Using Multilocus Sequence Typing. PLOS ONE. 2014; 9(4).