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Rodent-Borne Bartonella Infection Varies According to Host Species Within and Among Cities


It is becoming increasingly likely that rodents will drive future disease epidemics with the continued expansion of cities worldwide. Though transmission risk is a growing concern, relatively little is known about pathogens carried by urban rats. Here, we assess whether the diversity and prevalence of Bartonella bacteria differ according to the (co)occurrence of rat hosts across New Orleans, LA (NO), where both Norway (Rattus norvegicus) and roof rats (Rattus rattus) are found, relative to New York City (NYC) which only harbors Norway rats. We detected human pathogenic Bartonella species in both NYC and New Orleans rodents. We found that Norway rats in New Orleans harbored a more diverse assemblage of Bartonella than Norway rats in NYC and that Norway rats harbored a more diverse and distinct assemblage of Bartonella compared to roof rats in New Orleans. Additionally, Norway rats were more likely to be infected with Bartonella than roof rats in New Orleans. Flea infestation appears to be an important predictor of Bartonella infection in Norway rats across both cities. These findings illustrate that pathogen infections can be heterogeneous in urban rodents and indicate that further study of host species interactions could clarify variation in spillover risk across cities.

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We would like to thank T. Madere, F. Bauder, P. Smith, E. Guidry, A. Gulachenski, H. Rahn, A. Powell, J. Haydel, S. Triplett, S. Piper, and H. Patel for providing assistance with fieldwork and laboratory work. This study was supported by the National Science Foundation (BCS-1313703), the Louisiana Board of Regents LINK program and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (5P30 ES009089) A. Peterson also was supported by a Louisiana Board of Regents graduate fellowship. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

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Correspondence to Anna C. Peterson.

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Peterson, A.C., Ghersi, B.M., Alda, F. et al. Rodent-Borne Bartonella Infection Varies According to Host Species Within and Among Cities. EcoHealth 14, 771–782 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-017-1291-4

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  • Fleas
  • Rattus norvegicus
  • Rattus rattus
  • Rodent-borne pathogens
  • Zoonoses