. 2017; 10: 553.
Published online 2017 Nov 7. doi: 10.1186/s13071-017-2483-z
PMCID: PMC5678790
PMID: 29116007

Prevalence of Bartonella spp. by culture, PCR and serology, in veterinary personnel from Spain



The genus Bartonella includes fastidious, facultative intracellular bacteria mainly transmitted by arthropods and distributed among mammalian reservoirs. Bartonella spp. implicated as etiological agents of zoonoses are increasing. Apart from the classical Bartonella henselae, B. bacilliformis or B. quintana, other species (B. elizabethae, B. rochalimae, B. vinsonii arupensis and B. v. berkhoffii, B. tamiae or B. koehlerae, among others) have also been associated with human and/or animal diseases. Laboratory techniques for diagnosis (culture, PCR assays and serology) usually show lack of sensitivity. Since 2005, a method based on a liquid enrichment Bartonella alphaproteobacteria growth medium (BAPGM) followed by PCRs for the amplification of Bartonella spp. has been developed. We aimed to assess culture, molecular and serological prevalence of Bartonella infections in companion animal veterinary personnel from Spain.


Each of 89 participants completed a questionnaire. Immunofluorescence assays (IFA) using B. vinsonii berkhoffii (genotypes I, II and III), B. henselae, B. quintana and B. koehlerae as antigens were performed. A cut-off of 1:64 was selected as a seroreactivity titer. Blood samples were inoculated into BAPGM and subcultured onto blood agar plates. Bartonella spp. was detected using conventional and quantitative real-time PCR assays and DNA sequencing.


Among antigens corresponding to six Bartonella spp. or genotypes, the lowest seroreactivity was found against B. quintana (11.2%) and the highest, against B. v. berkhoffii genotype III (56%). A total of 27% of 89 individuals were not seroreactive to any test antigen. Bartonella spp. IFA seroreactivity was not associated with any clinical sign or symptom. DNA from Bartonella spp., including B. henselae (n = 2), B. v. berkhoffii genotypes I (n = 1) and III (n = 2), and B. quintana (n = 2) was detected in 7/89 veterinary personnel. PCR and DNA sequencing findings were not associated with clinical signs or symptoms. No co-infections were observed. One of the two B. henselae PCR-positive individuals was IFA seronegative to all tested antigens whereas the other one was not B. henselae seroreactive. The remaining PCR-positive individuals were seroreactive to multiple Bartonella spp. antigens.


High serological and molecular prevalences of exposure to, or infection with, Bartonella spp. were found in companion animal veterinary personnel from Spain. More studies using BAPGM enrichment blood culture and PCR are needed to clarify the finding of Bartonella PCR-positive individuals lacking clinical symptoms.



While the abstract above doesn’t state this, the results section in the full study states of the 89 veterinary personnel from different regions of Spain:

A high percentage of the participants reported having chronic/ persistent non-specific symptoms such as headache, insomnia, fatigue or memory problems.

Veterinarians & those working with animals are especially at risk for Bartonella.  Spread the word.

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