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Microb Ecol. 2008 Aug;56(2):373-82. doi: 10.1007/s00248-007-9355-6. Epub 2008 Jan 5.

Temporal and spatial patterns of Bartonella infection in black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus).

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA.


We describe the temporal dynamics and spatial distribution of Bartonella in black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) based on a longitudinal study conducted in 20 black-tailed prairie dog (BTPD) colonies in Boulder County, CO from 2003 to 2005. Bartonella infection was widely distributed in all colonies with an overall prevalence of 23.1%, but varied by colony from 4.8% to 42.5% and by year from 9.1 to 39.0%, with a marked increase in Bartonella activity in 2005. Levels of bacteremia varied from 40 to 12,000 colony forming units (CFU) per milliliter of BTPD blood, but were highly skewed with a median of 240 CFU. Bartonella infection rates were unimodal with respect to BTPD body mass, first increasing among growing juveniles, then declining among adults. Infection rates exhibited a sigmoidal response to body mass, such that 700g may prove to be a useful threshold value to evaluate the likelihood of Bartonella infection in BTPDs. Bartonella prevalence increased throughout the testing season for each year, as newly emerged juveniles developed bacteremia. Data from recaptured animals suggest that Bartonella infections did not persist in individual BTPDs, which may explain the relatively low prevalence of Bartonella in BTPDs compared to other rodent species. No association was found between Bartonella prevalence and host population density. Prevalence did not differ between males and females. The spatio-temporal pattern of Bartonella infection among colonies suggests epizootic spread from northern to central and southern portions of the study area. The potential significance of the BTPD-associated Bartonella for public health needs to be further investigated.

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