Eco-epidemiology of Novel Bartonella Genotypes from Parasitic Flies of Insectivorous Bats
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Bats are important zoonotic reservoirs for many pathogens worldwide. Although their highly specialized ectoparasites, bat flies (Diptera: Hippoboscoidea), can transmit Bartonella bacteria including human pathogens, their eco-epidemiology is unexplored. Here, we analyzed the prevalence and diversity of Bartonella strains sampled from 10 bat fly species from 14 European bat species. We found high prevalence of Bartonella spp. in most bat fly species with wide geographical distribution. Bat species explained most of the variance in Bartonella distribution with the highest prevalence of infected flies recorded in species living in dense groups exclusively in caves. Bat gender but not bat fly gender was also an important factor with the more mobile male bats giving more opportunity for the ectoparasites to access several host individuals. We detected high diversity of Bartonella strains (18 sequences, 7 genotypes, in 9 bat fly species) comparable with tropical assemblages of bat-bat fly association. Most genotypes are novel (15 out of 18 recorded strains have a similarity of 92–99%, with three sequences having 100% similarity to Bartonella spp. sequences deposited in GenBank) with currently unknown pathogenicity; however, 4 of these sequences are similar (up to 92% sequence similarity) to Bartonella spp. with known zoonotic potential. The high prevalence and diversity of Bartonella spp. suggests a long shared evolution of these bacteria with bat flies and bats providing excellent study targets for the eco-epidemiology of host-vector-pathogen cycles.
KeywordsChiroptera Bartonella Bat Fly Host-parasite Coevolution Nycteribiidae Pathogen Diversity
Permission for bat capture was provided by the National Inspectorate for Environment, Nature and Water (Hungary), and the Underground Heritage Commission (Romania). Bat banding license numbers are 59/2003 (PE), 305/2015 (ADS), and TMF-493/3/2005 (TG). No live bat was harmed for this study. The authors thank C. Jére, I. Csősz, D. Bălășoiu, A. Telea, and A. Ionică for their contribution in the bat fly collection in Romania. We would like to express our thanks to Cristian Domșa for the help provided in the creation of the maps in Figs. 1 and 6. The survey was organized in the framework of the EurNegVec COST Action TD1303. This research was supported from the grant PN-II-RU-TE-2014-4-1389, the grant “In the light of evolution: theories and solutions” (GINOP-2.3.2-15-2016-00057), and the János Bolyai Research Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Science (to ADS and GF).
ADS initiated the study, did part of the sample collection, and wrote the manuscript. LB, AC, SH, TG, PE, ZL, and DK contributed important samples to the study. MF identified all bat flies. AK, SSz, and HS performed the molecular and phylogenetic analyses. GF organized part of the sample collection and contributed to the study design and manuscript preparation. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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