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Canine Bartonellosis

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Pathogenesis and Transmission

Fleas play a major role in the transmission of Bartonella, particularly in felines (B. henselae). Due to their ubiquitous nature and spread through animal transport, fleas pose a worldwide risk for cats and dogs to become infected with Bartonella spp. But also other potential vectors for Bartonella transmission, such as ticks and biting flies, have been identified.

Due to the fact that dogs which are seropositive to B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii are often seropositive to Ehrlichia canis and/or Babesia canis at the same time, the transmitting tick vector, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, has been suggested as a likely vector also for Bartonella spp.

Different arthropod vectors have been reported for different Bartonella spp. Confirmed vectors are the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) for B. henselae, B. clarridgeiae, B. koehlerae, the sand fly (Lutzomyia verrucarum) for B. bacilliformis, the human louse (Pediculus humanus humanus respectively Pediculus humanus corporis) for B. quintana and the rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) for B. elizabethae.

Further suspected vectors for Bartonella comprise different species of fleas, sandflies, mites, biting flies and flies.

Besides transmission via blood-feeding arthropods, mechanical transmission of Bartonella spp. by biting and scratching also poses a risk for human infection as well known for the cat scratch disease.

Bartonella spp. infect erythrocytes, endothelial cells and macrophages, often leading to persistent blood-borne infections. Location within erythrocytes and also within vascular endothelial cells is believed to protect Bartonellae from antimicrobial agents. Immune system avoidance via intracellular location, frequent genetic rearrangements, and alteration of outer membrane proteins, is also considered important.

In dogs, B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii causes chronic infections by establishing intracellular infection in erythrocytes and endothelial cells, thereby escaping the acquired humoral and cell-mediated immune defenses of the host. Infection with B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii might induce a degree of chronic immunosuppression that could predispose dogs to infections with other pathogenic agents, resulting in a wide array of clinical manifestations in naturally-infected dogs.

Further information

  • Agan BK, Dolan MJ: Laboratory diagnosis of Bartonella infections. Clin Lab Med. 2002, 22, 937-62
  • Billeter SA, Levy MG, Chomel BB, et al.: Vector transmission of Bartonella species with emphasis on the potential for tick transmission. Med Vet Entomol. 2008, 22, 1-15
  • Boulouis HJ, Chang CC, Henn JB, et al.: Factors associated with the rapid emergence of zoonotic Bartonella infections. Vet Res. 2005, 36, 383-410
  • Breitschwerdt EB, Maggi RG, Chomel BB, et al.: Bartonellosis: an emerging infectious disease of zoonotic importance to animals and human beings. J Vet Emerg Crit Care (San Antonio). 2010, 20, 8-30
  • Breitschwerdt EB, Maggi RG: Comparative medical features of canine and human bartonellosis. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2009, 15, 106-7
  • Chomel BB, Boulouis HJ, Maruyama S, et al.: Bartonella spp. in pets and effect on human health. Emerg Infect Dis. 2006, 12, 389-94
  • Chomel BB, Kasten RW: Bartonellosis, an increasingly recognized zoonosis. J Appl Microbiol. 2010, 109, 743-50
  • Duncan AB, Maggi RG, Breitschwerdt EB: A combined approach for the enhanced detection and isolation of Bartonella species in dog blood samples: pre-enrichment liquid culture followed by PCR and subculture onto agar plates. J Microbiol Methods. 2007, 69, 273-81
  • Gabriel MW, Henn J, Foley JE, et al.: Zoonotic Bartonella species in fleas collected on gray foxes (Urocyon cinereo argenteus). Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2009, 9, 597–602
  • Guptill L: Bartonellosis. Vet Microbiol. 2010, 140, 347-59
  • Henn JB, Chomel BB, Boulouis HJ, et al.: Bartonella rochalimae in raccoons, coyotes, and red foxes. Emerg Infect Dis. 2009, 15, 1984-7
  • Henn JB, Gabriel MW, Kasten RW, et al.: Infective endocarditis in a dog and the phylogenetic relationship of the associated "Bartonella rochalimae" strain with isolates from dogs, gray foxes, and a human. J Clin Microbiol. 2009, 47, 787-90
  • Pappalardo BL, Brown TT, Tompkins M, et al.: Immunopathology of Bartonella vinsonii (berkhoffii) in experimentally infected dogs. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2001, 83, 125-47

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