Zoonotic Bartonella Species in fleas collected on gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)

Mourad W. Gabriel, Jennifer Henn, Janet E Foley, Richard N. Brown, Rickie W. Kasten, Patrick Foley, Bruno B Chomel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Bartonella spp. are fastidious, gram-negative, rod-shaped bacteria and are usually vector-borne. However, the vector has not been definitively identified for many recently described species. In northern California, gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) are infected with two zoonotic Bartonella species, B. rochalimae and B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii. Fleas (range 1-8 fleas per fox) were collected from 22 (41.5%) of 54 gray foxes from urban and backcountry zones near Hoopa, California. The flea species were determined, and DNA was individually extracted to establish the Bartonella species harbored by these fleas. Of the 108 fleas collected, 99 (92%) were identified as Pulex simulans. Overall, 39% (42/108) of the fleas were polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-positive for Bartonella, with B. rochalimae and B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii identified in 34 (81%) and 8 (19%) of the PCR-positive fleas, respectively. There was no difference between the prevalence of Bartonella spp. in P. simulans for the urban and backcountry zones. Fourteen (64%) of the 22 foxes were Bartonella bacteremic at one or more of the capture dates. In 10 instances, both the foxes and the fleas collected from them at the same blood collection were Bartonella-positive. B. rochalimae was the predominant species identified in both foxes and fleas. The competency of Pulex fleas as a vector of B. rochalimae has not been confirmed and will need to be demonstrated experimentally. Pulex spp. fleas readily feed on humans and may represent a source of human exposure to zoonotic species of Bartonella.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-602
Number of pages6
JournalVector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009


  • Bartonella rochalimae
  • Bartonella vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii
  • California
  • Ctenocephalides felis
  • Gray fox
  • Pulex simulans
  • Urocyon cinereoargenteus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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