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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Clinical and molecular epidemiology of veterinary blastomycosis in Wisconsin

Jennifer L Anderson1, Brian L Sloss2 and Jennifer K Meece1*

Author Affiliations

1 Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, Marshfield WI 54449, USA

2 U.S. Geological Survey, Wisconsin Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, College of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Stevens Point WI 54481, USA

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:84  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-84

Published: 22 April 2013



Several studies have shown that Blastomyces dermatitidis, the etiologic agent of blastomycosis, is a genetically diverse pathogen. Blastomycosis is a significant health issue in humans and other mammals. Veterinary and human isolates matched with epidemiological case data from the same geographic area and time period were used to determine: (i) if differences in genetic diversity and structure exist between clinical veterinary and human isolates of B. dermatitidis and (ii) if comparable epidemiologic features differ among veterinary and human blastomycosis cases.


Genetic typing of 301 clinical B. dermatitidis isolates produced 196 haplotypes (59 unique to veterinary isolates, 134 unique to human isolates, and 3 shared between canine and human isolates). Private allelic richness was higher in veterinary (median 2.27) compared to human isolates (median 1.14) (p = 0.005).

Concordant with previous studies, two distinct genetic groups were identified among all isolates. Genetic group assignment was different between human and veterinary isolates (p < 0.001), with more veterinary isolates assigned to Group 2.

The mean age of dogs diagnosed with blastomycosis was 6 years. Thirty cases were in male dogs (52%) and 24 were females (41%). The breed of dog was able to be retrieved in 38 of 58 cases with 19 (50%) being sporting breeds. Three of four felines infected with blastomycosis were domestic shorthair males between ages 6–12, and presented with disseminated disease. The other was a lynx with pulmonary disease. The equine isolate was from an 11-year-old male Halflinger with disseminated disease. Disseminated disease was reported more often in veterinary (62%) than human cases (19%) (p < 0.001).


Isolates from all hosts clustered largely into previously identified genetic groups, with 3 haplotypes being shared between human and canine isolates confirming that B. dermatitidis isolates capable of infecting both species occur in nature. Allelic diversity measures trended higher in veterinary samples, with a higher number of total alleles and private alleles. Veterinary isolates of B. dermatitidis contributed a substantial amount of diversity to the overall population genetic structure demonstrating the importance of including veterinary isolates in genetic studies of evolution and virulence in this organism.

Blastomycosis; Canine; Epidemiology; Blastomyces dermatitidis; Genetics