Bartonella spp. are haemotropic gram-negative bacteria within the family Bartonellaceae that are mainly transmitted by vectors. A characteristic feature of these bacteria is their adherence to and invasion of erythrocytes.
The widespread occurrence and diversity of these bacteria has been increasingly recognised and thus resulted in expansion of the genus Bartonella to more than 30 currently described species or subspecies. Many Bartonella species appear to be well-adapted to extended survival in mammalian reservoir hosts without causing clinical symptoms.
While cats are considered to be the main mammalian reservoir for important zoonotic Bartonella species (B. henselae, B. clarridgeiae and B. koehlerae.), the role of dogs as an important reservoir seems less clear. Current evidence indicates that canids – including coyotes, dogs and grey foxes – potentially serve as reservoir hosts for B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii. Furthermore, the presence of B. rochalimae (previously described as B. clarridgeiae-like) in dogs, grey and red foxes, raccoons and coyotes, as well as fleas collected on grey foxes, indicates that wild carnivores may function as natural reservoir of this zoonotic Bartonella species too, with fleas being the main vector.
It is not completely clear if Bartonellae are primary pathogens of dogs, or opportunistic pathogens. Species known to infect dogs are B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii, B. henselae, which seem to be the most likely species to be associated with clinical disease. Further B. clarridgeiae, B .washoensis, B. elizabethae, B. koehlerae and B. quintana have been reported.
Several Bartonella species have been identified as zoonotic pathogens including B. henselae and B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii.
Other examples of reservoir hosts include cattle, which appear to be the mammalian reservoir for B. bovis and human beings for B. quintana.
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