Experimental and natural infection with Bartonella henselae in domestic cats

Rachel C. Abbott, Bruno B Chomel, Rickie W. Kasten, Kim A. Floyd-Hawkins, Yoko Kikuchi, Jane E. Koehler, Niels C Pedersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


Domestic cats were experimentally infected with culture propagated Bartonella henselae by intradermal (ID) and intravenous (IV) routes. Cats were more efficiently infected by the ID (8/8 cats) than by the IV (2/16) route. Bacteremia was detected 1-3 weeks following inoculation and lasted for most cats for 1-8 months. However, one naturally infected cat was observed for 24 months and was found to be cyclically bacteremic, with bacterial levels varying one hundred fold or more from one period to another. No clinical or hematologic abnormalities were observed in any of the infected cats, even at the peak of bacteremia. Two cats that had become abacteremic were resistant to reinfection when inoculated with B. henselae a second time. Horizontal transmission through intimate contact between bacteremic and susceptible cats did not occur, and antibody positive bacteremic queens did not transmit the infection to their kittens in utero, peri-partum or post-partum. Only four of the 18 kittens acquired detectable levels of maternal antibody following nursing, which disappeared by 6 weeks of age. These studies indicate that B. henselae exists in an almost perfect host-parasite relationship with its feline host, but that most cats can ultimately rid themselves of the infection. The susceptibility of cats to intradermal infection and the lack of direct cat-cat transmission are compatible with possible arthropod vectors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-51
Number of pages11
JournalComparative Immunology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


  • Bacteremia
  • Bartonella henselae
  • Cat-scratch disease
  • Cats
  • Infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology
  • veterinary(all)


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