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Infect Genet Evol. 2012 Jul;12(5):894-904. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2012.03.005. Epub 2012 Mar 23.

Bartonella bacteria in nature: where does population variability end and a species start?

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  • 1Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fort Collins, Colorado 80521, USA.


The application of new molecular approaches has permitted the differentiation of numerous strains belonging to the genus Bartonella and identification of new Bartonella species. However, the molecular typing of these organisms should be coupled with studies aimed at defining the biological properties of the newly described species. The long-history of co-adaptation between bartonella(1) bacteria and their mammalian hosts and possibly arthropod vectors provides a unique opportunity for applying this information for the sub-genus taxonomy. There can be a varying level of association between the bacteria and their hosts, ranging from animal species to animal genus to animal community. The commonality is that any level of association provides a certain degree of isolation for a given bartonella population that can mimic 'biological isolation'. Such an association defines a specific ecological niche and determines some specific characteristics, including sequence types that can be used as markers for demarcation of bacterial species. Usage of a combination of genetic markers and ecological information can delineate a number of species complexes that might combine several genospecies, named strains, and unique genotypes. The identification of such species complexes can be presented as (1) separate phylogenetic lineages distantly related to other species (e.g. Bartonella bacilliformis); (2) clusters of genetically similar strains associated with a specific mammalian group (e.g. Bartonella elizabethae species complex); and (3) clusters of genetically similar strains that combine a number of ecotypes (e.g. Bartonella vinsonii species complex).

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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