What Is in a Cat Scratch? Growth of Bartonella henselae in a Biofilm

Published Date
Okaro U
George S
Anderson B

Bartonella henselae (B. henselae) is a gram-negative bacterium that causes cat scratch disease, bacteremia, and endocarditis, as well as other clinical presentations. B. henselae has been shown to form a biofilm in vitro that likely plays a role in the establishment and persistence of the bacterium in the host. Biofilms are also known to form in the cat flea vector; hence, the ability of this bacterium to form a biofilm has broad biological significance. The release of B. henselae from a biofilm niche appears to be important in disease persistence and relapse in the vertebrate host but also in transmission by the cat flea vector. It has been shown that the BadA adhesin of B. henselaeis critical for adherence and biofilm formation. Thus, the upregulation of badA is important in initiating biofilm formation, and down-regulation is important in the release of the bacterium from the biofilm. We summarize the current knowledge of biofilm formation in Bartonella species and the role of BadA in biofilm formation. We discuss the evidence that defines possible mechanisms for the regulation of the genes required for biofilm formation. We further describe the regulation of those genes in the conditions that mimic both the arthropod vector and the mammalian host for B. henselae. The treatment for persistent B. henselae infection remains a challenge; hence, a better understanding of the mechanisms by which this bacterium persists in its host is critical to inform future efforts to develop drugs to treat such infections.

Keywords: Bartonella henselae; biofilm formation; cat flea; gene regulation; sRNA; transcription factor; transcription terminator; trimeric auto transporter adhesin.