Bartonella spp. bacteremia in blood donors from Campinas, Brazil

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2015 Jan 15;9(1):e0003467. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0003467. eCollection 2015 Jan.


Bartonella species are blood-borne, re-emerging organisms, capable of causing prolonged infection with diverse disease manifestations, from asymptomatic bacteremia to chronic debilitating disease and death. This pathogen can survive for over a month in stored blood. However, its prevalence among blood donors is unknown, and screening of blood supplies for this pathogen is not routinely performed. We investigated Bartonella spp. prevalence in 500 blood donors from Campinas, Brazil, based on a cross-sectional design. Blood samples were inoculated into an enrichment liquid growth medium and sub-inoculated onto blood agar. Liquid culture samples and Gram-negative isolates were tested using a genus specific ITS PCR with amplicons sequenced for species identification. Bartonella henselae and Bartonella quintana antibodies were assayed by indirect immunofluorescence. B. henselae was isolated from six donors (1.2%). Sixteen donors (3.2%) were Bartonella-PCR positive after culture in liquid or on solid media, with 15 donors infected with B. henselae and one donor infected with Bartonella clarridgeiae. Antibodies against B. henselae or B. quintana were found in 16% and 32% of 500 blood donors, respectively. Serology was not associated with infection, with only three of 16 Bartonella-infected subjects seropositive for B. henselae or B. quintana. Bartonella DNA was present in the bloodstream of approximately one out of 30 donors from a major blood bank in South America. Negative serology does not rule out Bartonella spp. infection in healthy subjects. Using a combination of liquid and solid cultures, PCR, and DNA sequencing, this study documents for the first time that Bartonella spp. bacteremia occurs in asymptomatic blood donors. Our findings support further evaluation of Bartonella spp. transmission which can occur through blood transfusions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteremia / epidemiology*
  • Bartonella Infections / epidemiology
  • Bartonella Infections / transmission*
  • Bartonella henselae / genetics
  • Bartonella henselae / immunology
  • Bartonella henselae / isolation & purification*
  • Blood Donors*
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA

Grant support

This project was the basis for the PhD thesis of LHUP and was partially funded by the Faculty Grant in Global Health to DGS from the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health; a grant from FAEPEX—UNICAMP (Fundo de Apoio ao Ensino, à Pesquisa e à Extensão—UNICAMP) under protocols number 234/10 and 292/10; and a summer research scholarship to SS from the Office of the Vice President for Research and Biotechnology, Western University, Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona, CA. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.