Bartonella species are emerging infectious organisms transmitted by arthropods capable of causing long-lasting infection in mammalian hosts. Among over 30 species described from four continents to date, 15 are known to infect humans, with eight of these capable of infecting dogs as well. B. bacilliformis is the only species described infecting humans in Peru; however, several other Bartonella species were detected in small mammals, bats, ticks, and fleas in that country. The objective of this study was to determine the serological and/or molecular prevalence of Bartonella species in asymptomatic dogs in Peru in order to indirectly evaluate the potential for human exposure to zoonotic Bartonella species. A convenient sample of 219 healthy dogs was obtained from five cities and three villages in Peru. EDTA-blood samples were collected from 205 dogs, whereas serum samples were available from 108 dogs. The EDTA-blood samples were screened by PCR followed by nucleotide sequencing for species identification. Antibodies against B. vinsonii berkhoffii and B. rochalimae were detected by IFA (cut-off of 1∶64). Bartonella DNA was detected in 21 of the 205 dogs (10%). Fifteen dogs were infected with B. rochalimae, while six dogs were infected with B. v. berkhoffii genotype III. Seropositivity for B. rochalimae was detected in 67 dogs (62%), and for B. v. berkhoffii in 43 (40%) of the 108 dogs. Reciprocal titers ≥1∶256 for B. rochalimae were detected in 19% of dogs, and for B. v. berkhoffii in 6.5% of dogs. This study identifies for the first time a population of dogs exposed to or infected with zoonotic Bartonella species, suggesting that domestic dogs may be the natural reservoir of these zoonotic organisms. Since dogs are epidemiological sentinels, Peruvian humans may be exposed to infections with B. rochalimae or B. v. berkhoffii.
Bartonella are bacteria transmitted by fleas, ticks, sandflies and other insects capable of infecting humans, domestic animals, livestock and wildlife, including marine mammals. In humans, they cause diseases such as trench fever, cat scratch disease, endocarditis, fever of unknown origin and have been recently associated with neurologic and neurocognitive abnormalities. Bartonella bacilliformis was first described in Peru in 1913, and it has never been detected in animals. Despite the fact that 14 other Bartonella species have been detected infecting humans around the world, no other Bartonella species has yet been described from Peruvian humans or domestic animals. We documented a significant number of healthy domestic dogs in Peru infected or exposed to two Bartonella species (B. rochalimae and B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii), which are known to cause disease in humans. These same species were previously detected in human fleas and dog ticks in Peru, suggesting that vector transmission between dogs and humans may be possible. While the role of dogs as a source of Bartonella species for direct transmission to humans is not well understood, preventive measures including vector control in dogs should be implemented to prevent human infection.