Bartonella henselae prevalence in domestic cats in California: Risk factors and association between bacteremia and antibody titers

Bruno B Chomel, R. C. Abbott, R. W. Kasten, K. A. Floyd-Hawkins, Philip H Kass, C. A. Glaser, Niels C Pedersen, J. E. Koehler

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275 Scopus citations


The isolation of Bartonella henselae, the agent of cat scratch disease, from the blood of naturally infected domestic cats and the demonstration that cats remain bacteremic for several months suggest that cats play a major role as a reservoir for this bacterium. A convenience sample of 205 cats from northern California was selected between 1992 and 1994 to evaluate the B. henselae antibody and bacteremia prevalences and to determine the risk factors and associations between bacteremia and antibody titers. B. henselae was isolated from the blood of 81 cats (39.5%). Forty-two (52%) of these bacteremic cats were found to be infected with ≥1,000 CFU/ml of blood. Impounded or former stray cats were 2.86 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.94, 4.22) times more likely to be bacteremic than the pet cats. Young cats (<1 year old) were more likely than adult cats to be bacteremic (relative risk = 1.64; 95% CI = 1.19, 2.28). Bacteremic cats were more likely than nonbacteremic cats to be infested with fleas (relative risk = 1.64; 95% CI = 1.38, 1.96). No association between B. henselae infection and feline immunodeficiency virus antibody prevalence was observed. Eighty-one percent of the cats (166 of 205) tested positive for B. henselae antibodies, and titers were higher in bacteremic than in nonbacteremic cats. Multiple logistic regression analysis indicated that younger age and seropositivity for B. henselae antibodies were associated with bacteremia. Serological screening for Bartonella antibodies may not be useful for the identification of bacteremic cats (positive predictive value = 46.4%), but the lack of antibodies to B. henselae was highly predictive of the absence of bacteremia (negative predictive value = 89.7%). Seronegative cats may be more appropriate pets for immunocompromised individuals who are at increased risk for developing severe B. henselae disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2445-2450
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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