Detection of novel Bartonella strains and Yersinia pestis in prairie dogs and their fleas (Siphonaptera: Ceratophyllidae and Pulicidae) using multiplex polymerase chain reaction

J Med Entomol. 2003 May;40(3):329-37. doi: 10.1603/0022-2585-40.3.329.


We developed a multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay that simultaneously detects three types of flea-associated microorganisms. Targets for the assay were sequences encoding portions of the gltA, a 17-kDa antigen, and pla genes of Bartonella spp. Strong et al., Rickettsia spp. da Rocha-Lima, and Yersinia pestis Yersin, respectively. A total of 260 flea samples containing bloodmeal remnants were analyzed from fleas collected from abandoned prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) burrows at the site of an active plague epizootic in Jefferson County, CO. Results indicated that 34 (13.1%) fleas were positive for Bartonella spp., 0 (0%) were positive for Rickettsia spp., and 120 (46.2%) were positive for Y. pestis. Twenty-three (8.8%) of these fleas were coinfected with Bartonella spp. and Y. pestis. A second group of 295 bloodmeal-containing fleas was collected and analyzed from abandoned burrows in Logan County, CO, where a prairie dog die-off had occurred 2-4 mo before the time of sampling. Of these 295 fleas, 7 (2.4%) were positive for Bartonella spp., 0 (0%) were positive for Rickettsia spp., and 46 (15.6%) were positive for Y. pestis. Coinfections were not observed in fleas from the Logan County epizootic site. The multiplex PCR also was used to identify Y. pestis and Bartonella in prairie dog blood and tissues. This report represents the first identification of Bartonella from prairie dogs and their fleas. Prairie dog fleas were tested with PCR, and the Bartonella PCR amplicons produced were sequenced and found to be closely related to similar sequences amplified from Bartonella that had been isolated from prairie dog blood samples. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that the sequences of bartonellae from prairie dogs and prairie dog fleas cluster tightly within a clade that is distinct from those containing other known Bartonella genotypes.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / microbiology
  • Bartonella / classification*
  • Bartonella / genetics
  • Bartonella / isolation & purification*
  • Bartonella Infections / transmission
  • Base Sequence
  • Colorado
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Bacterial / isolation & purification
  • Phylogeny
  • Plague / transmission
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Rickettsia / classification
  • Rickettsia / isolation & purification
  • Sciuridae / microbiology*
  • Siphonaptera / microbiology*
  • Yersinia pestis / classification
  • Yersinia pestis / genetics
  • Yersinia pestis / isolation & purification*


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Bacterial