Detection of Zoonotic Bartonella Pathogens in Rabbit Fleas, Colorado, USA

Shingo Sato; R. Jory Brinkerhoff; Erin Hollis; Shunta Funada; Avery B. Shannon; Soichi Maruyama


Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2020;26(4):778-781. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


We detected 3 Bartonella species in wild rabbit fleas from Colorado, USA: B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii (n = 16), B. alsatica (n = 5), and B. rochalimae (n = 1). Our results support the establishment of the zoonotic agent B. alsatica in North America.


Wild lagomorphs (rabbits, hares, and pikas) are known or potential reservoirs for a number of zoonotic agents, including tularemia (Francisella tularensis), plague (Yersinia pestis), pasteurellosis (Pasteurella multocida), ringworm (Trichophyton spp.), and cryptosporidiosis (Cryptosporidium cuniculus).[1] In 1999, a novel Bartonella species, B. alsatica, was isolated from the blood of wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in eastern France.[2]B. alsatica was later identified as a causative agent of lymphadenitis[3] and endocarditis[4,5] in humans. A case of prosthetic vascular graft infection caused by B. alsatica was reported in 2019.[6]

The geographic distribution of B. alsatica is poorly understood, as is its mode of transmission, although vector-mediated transmission was suggested upon initial characterization of this agent.[2]B. alsatica DNA has been detected in fleas collected from Bartonella-infected wild rabbits in France[7] and Spain,[8,9] suggesting the potential for fleaborne B. alsatica transmission. Our goal was to describe associations between rabbit-associated Bartonella and potential flea vectors in the United States to gain insights into transmission of fleaborne zoonoses.