Vector transmission of Bartonella species with emphasis on the potential for tick transmission

Published Date
Medical & Veterinary Entomology
Billeter SA
Levy MG
Chomel BB
Breitschwerdt EB

Bartonella species are gram-negative bacteria that infect erythrocytes, endothelial cells and macrophages, often leading to persistent blood-borne infections. Because of the ability of various Bartonella species to reside within erythrocytes of a diverse number of animal hosts, there is substantial opportunity for the potential uptake of these blood-borne bacteria by a variety of arthropod vectors that feed on animals and people. Five Bartonella species are transmitted by lice, fleas or sandflies. However, Bartonella DNA has been detected or Bartonella spp. have been cultured from numerous other arthropods. This review discusses Bartonella transmission by sandflies, lice and fleas, the potential for transmission by other vectors, and data supporting transmission by ticks. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or culture methods have been used to detect Bartonella in ticks, either questing or host-attached, throughout the world. Case studies and serological or molecular surveys involving humans, cats and canines provide indirect evidence supporting transmission of Bartonella species by ticks. Of potential clinical relevance, many studies have proposed co-transmission of Bartonella with other known tick-borne pathogens. Currently, critically important experimental transmission studies have not been performed for Bartonella transmission by many potential arthropod vectors, including ticks.