Canine Bartonellosis



Diagnosis of Bartonella infections can be confirmed by detection of serum antibodies, by immunohistochemical analysis of tissue biopsies (lymph nodes, skin, liver, or other affected organs), by molecular detection of Bartonella DNA by PCR assays or by using a combination of Bartonella alpha Proteobacteria growth medium, followed by PCR. The latter is suggested to be the most sensitive method of detecting Bartonella infection in dogs.

One common method for the laboratory diagnosis of Bartonella infections is serology, using indirect immunofluorescence techniques. Serological tests such as IFAT (indirect fluorescence antibody test) can be used for the diagnosis of infection, present or previous. However, to a certain extent dogs naturally infected with Bartonella may remain seronegative. Cross-reactions between the different species, and also between genera such as Coxiella and Chlamydia have also been observed – and with chronic intracellular infection antibody titers decline to non-diagnostic levels. However, serology can be used as a screening test to detect past exposure in populations. The IFAT (indirect fluorescence antibody test) is considered the gold standard test for serological diagnosis.

Detection of Bartonella spp. by culture on agar plates is also possible, but time-consuming – and during chronic infection the pathogen is hard to isolate from the blood because of the low bacteremia. Further, some species may be difficult to culture like B. vinsoniii subsp. berkhoffii.

Recently, a novel chemically-modified liquid culture medium (Bartonella ⁄ alpha-Proteobacteria growth media, BAPGM), supporting the growth of several Bartonella species, has been developed. The combination of BAPGM culture with PCR assay was developed for diagnostic use, to characterise and quantify Bartonella infection in blood samples.

Microscopic examination of stained blood smears is only effective to visualise B. bacilliformis, a solely human pathogen in South America. Other Bartonella spp. cannot be visualised on blood smears. When isolated on an agar plate, colonies are described as silvery-white shining, with a rough or smooth, mucoid appearance.

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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