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J Vet Diagn Invest. 2003 Jul;15(4):349-54.

The immunologic response of dogs to Bartonella vinsonii subspecies berkhoffii antigens: as assessed by Western immunoblot analysis.

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Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606, USA.


Bartonella vinsonii subspecies berkhoffii is a recently recognized zoonotic pathogen that causes endocarditis, granulomatous rhinitis, and granulomatous lymphadenitis in dogs. Isolation of B. vinsonii (berkhoffii) from blood or tissue samples is frequently unsuccessful; therefore, diagnosis is primarily dependent on serologic or molecular testing modalities. Because previous canine serologic studies have used an indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA), without Western immunoblot (WI) confirmation, the overall objective of this study was to examine the diagnostic use of WI for confirmation of B. vinsonii (berkhoffii) infection in dogs. To confirm that agar-grown and cell culture-grown organisms yielded similar patterns of WI antigenic protein recognition, the 2 preparations were compared using IFA-reactive sera obtained from dogs experimentally infected with B. vinsonii (berkhoffii). Temporal changes in the pattern of antigenic protein recognition were characterized using sera obtained from dogs at various time points after experimental B. vinsonii (berkhoffii) infection. The specificity of B. vinsonii (berkhoffii) WI was examined by testing canine sera that were reactive to B. henselae, B. clarridgeiae, Ehrlichia canis, Rickettsia rickettsii, Babesia canis, Anaplasma phagocytophilum (previously E. equi), or Brucella canis antigens. Clinical accessions including serum samples obtained from B. vinsonii (berkhoffii) culture-positive dogs and B. vinsonii (berkhoffii) culture-negative dogs that were IFA seroreactive to B. vinsonii (berkhoffii) antigens were examined by WI. The results of this study indicate that WI using agar-grown or cell culture-grown B. vinsonii (berkhoffii) antigens produce identical patterns of antigenic protein recognition. After experimental infection, there is a progressive increase in the number of antigenic proteins that are recognized by WI, with the 33-kD antigen representing the first and the most persistent antigen recognized by B. vinsonii (berkhoffii)-infected dogs. Regarding specificity, sera from dogs that were reactive to various heterologous antigens did not recognize B. vinsonii (berkhoffii) antigens by IFA or WI, and sera from dogs experimentally infected with B. henselae did not recognize B. vinsonii (berkhoffii) antigens by WI. Regarding clinical accessions, there was good agreement between B. vinsonii (berkhoffii) IFA test results and WI analysis. Western immunoblot analysis can be used to detect or confirm exposure to B. vinsonii (berkhoffii) in dogs.

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