Clinical impact of persistent Bartonella bacteremia in humans and animals

Bruno B Chomel, Rickie W. Kasten, Jane E Sykes, Henri Jean Boulouis, Edward B. Breitschwerdt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Bartonella spp. are emerging vector-borne pathogens that cause persistent, often asymptomatic bacteremia in their natural hosts. As our knowledge progresses, it appears that chronic infection may actually predispose the host to mild, insidious nonspecific manifestations or induce, in selected instances, severe diseases. Persistent asymptomatic bacteremia is most common in animals that serve as the main reservoir for the specific Bartonella. In humans, these organisms are B. bacilliformis and B. quintana. Other Bartonella species, for which humans are not the natural reservoir, tend to cause persistent bacteremia only in immunodeficient individuals. In some of these individuals, endothelial cell proliferation may create lesions such as bacillary angiomatosis or bacillary peliosis. In cats, bacteremia of variable level and continuity may last for years. Some strains of B. henselae may induce clinical manifestations, including fever, mild neurological signs, reproductive disorders, whereas others do not induce clinically obvious disease. Reproductive disorders have also been reported in mice experimentally infected with B. birtlesii. Finally, canids constitute the most interesting naturally occurring animal model for the human disease. Like immunocompetent people, healthy dogs only occasionally demonstrate long-term bacteremia when infected with Bartonella spp. However, some dogs develop severe clinical manifestations, such as endocarditis, and the pathologic spectrum associated with Bartonella spp. infection in domestic dogs is rapidly expanding and resembles the infrequently reported clinical entities observed in humans. In coyotes, persistent bacteremia is more common than in domestic dogs. It will be of interest to determine if coyotes develop clinical or pathological indications of infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-278
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - 2003


  • Bacteremia
  • Bartonella
  • Vector-borne pathogens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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