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J Infect Dis. 1999 Jul;180(1):220-4.

Rats of the genus Rattus are reservoir hosts for pathogenic Bartonella species: an Old World origin for a New World disease?

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Viral and Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA.


Bartonella species were isolated from the blood of 63 of 325 Rattus norvegicus and 11 of 92 Rattus rattus from 13 sites in the United States and Portugal. Infection in both Rattus species ranged from 0% (e.g., 0/87) to approximately 60% (e.g., 35/62). A 337-bp fragment of the citrate synthase (gltA) gene amplified by polymerase chain reaction was sequenced from all 74 isolates. Isolates from R. norvegicus were most similar to Bartonella elizabethae, isolated previously from a patient with endocarditis (93%-100% sequence similarity), followed by Bartonella grahamii and other Bartonella species isolated from Old World rodents (Clethrionomys species, Mus musculus, and Rattus species). These data suggest that Rattus species are a reservoir host for pathogenic Bartonella species and are consistent with a hypothesized Old World origin for Bartonella species recovered from Rattus species introduced into the Americas.

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