Bartonella henselae is an emerging bacterial pathogen causing cat-scratch disease and potentially fatal bacillary angiomatosis in humans. Bacteremic cats constitute a large reservoir for human infection. Although feline vaccination is a potential strategy to prevent human infection, selection of appropriate B. henselae strains is critical for successful vaccine development. Two distinct genotypes of B. henselae (type I, type II) have been identified and are known to co-infect the feline host, but very little is known about the interaction of these two genotypes during co-infection in vivo. To study the in vivo dynamics of type I and type II co-infection, we evaluated three kittens that were naturally flea-infected with both B. henselae type I and type II. Fifty individual bloodstream isolates from each of the cats over multiple time points were molecularly typed (by 16S rRNA gene sequencing), to determine the prevalence of the two genotypes over 2 years of persistent infection. We found that both B. henselae genotypes were transmitted simultaneously to each cat via natural flea infestation, resulting in mixed infection with both genotypes. Although the initial infection was predominately type I, after the first 2 months, the isolated genotype shifted to exclusively type II, which then persisted with a relapsing pattern. Understanding the parameters of protection against both genotypes of B. henselae, and the competitive dynamics in vivo between the two genotypes, will be critical in the development of a successful feline vaccine that can ultimately prevent B. henselae transmission to human contacts.
- Bartonella henselae
- Feline bacteremia
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Soil Science