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Parasitology. 2007 Mar;134(Pt 3):413-25. Epub 2006 Nov 13.

Contrasting dynamics of Bartonella spp. in cyclic field vole populations: the impact of vector and host dynamics.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Biosciences Building, Liverpool L69 7LB, UK.


Many zoonotic disease agents are transmitted between hosts by arthropod vectors, including fleas, but few empirical studies of host-vector-microparasite dynamics have investigated the relative importance of hosts and vectors. This study investigates the dynamics of 4 closely related Bartonella species and their flea vectors in cyclic populations of field voles (Microtus agrestis) over 3 years. The probability of flea infestation was positively related to field vole density 12 months previously in autumn, but negatively related to more recent host densities, suggesting a dilution effect. The 4 Bartonella species exhibited contrasting dynamics. Only B. grahamii, showed a distinct seasonal pattern. Infection probability increased with field vole density for B. doshiae, B. taylorii and BGA (a previously unidentified species) and with density of coexisting wood mice for B. doshiae and B. grahamii. However, only the infection probability of BGA in spring was related to flea prevalence. B. doshiae and BGA were most common in older animals, but the other 2 were most common in non-reproductive hosts. Generally, host density rather than vector abundance appears most important for the dynamics of flea-transmitted Bartonella spp., possibly reflecting the importance of flea exchange between hosts. However, even closely related species showed quite different dynamics, emphasising that other factors such as population age structure can impact on zoonotic risk.

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