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Study Suggests Bartonella Can Be Transmitted to Humans Via Fleas and Rodents

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Rodents, Fleas and Ticks: a Molecular Field Study on Host-Vector-Pathogen Associations in Saxony, Eastern Germany
 
Editor’s Note:  Up until relatively recently, it was thought that Lyme disease infections such as Borrelia, Bartonella and Babesia were principally transmitted through the bite of a tick. However, studies are now showing that fleas, mosquitoes, bed bugs and other insects are also carriers of these infections, which means that people may also be getting infected via other insects. 
 
Abstract
 
Bartonellae cause zoonotic diseases and are transmitted by arthropods. Rodents are reservoirs for most Bartonella spp. As the knowledge about Bartonella in rodents and their parasitizing ectoparasites is scarce in Germany, this study’s objectives were to investigate Bartonella spp. in small mammals and in their ectoparasites.
 
A total of 79 small mammals (seven species) were captured and their ectoparasites collected at seven sites around Leipzig, Saxony, Germany, in 2010 and 2011. Altogether, 79 spleen samples, 135 fleas (five species) and 365 ticks (three species) were investigated for Bartonella spp. by PCR targeting the ITS 16S-23S rRNA region. In total, 52 (65.8 %) small mammals, 73 (54.1 %) fleas and 51 (16.3 %) ticks were positive for Bartonella spp.
 
Most small mammals were positive for uncultured Bartonella sp. (n?=?29) followed by Bartonella grahamii (n?=?12), Bartonella taylorii (n?=?8) and Bartonella sp. N40 (n?=?3). Likewise, most fleas were positive for uncultured Bartonella sp. (n?=?45) followed by B. grahamii (n?=?14), B. taylorii (n?=?8), B. sp. N40 (n?=?5) and Bartonella elizabethae (n?=?2). Most ticks were positive for B. sp. (n?=?19) followed by B. grahamii (n?=?10), Bartonella chomelii (n?=?3), B. taylorii (n?=?2) and B. sp. N40 (n?=?1).
 
This study’s results suggest that rodents and fleas may be reservoirs and vectors, respectively. Zoonotic B. grahamii and B. elizabethae were found in rodents and their fleas. Therefore, humans may contract Bartonella infection by contact to wild rodents. Ticks seem of minor importance in transmitting Bartonella spp. found in fleas and rodents. However, ticks might be vectors of B. chomelii.
 
Source: By Silaghi C, Pfeffer M, Kiefer D, Kiefer M, Obiegala A. Bartonella, Rodents, Fleas and Ticks: a Molecular Field Study on Host-Vector-Pathogen Associations in Saxony, Eastern Germany. Microb Ecol. 2016 Nov;72(4):965-974. Epub 2016 May 24.

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