Fleas collected from Norway rats in downtown LA carry human pathogen

Nov 17, 2011

Most fleas collected from rats trapped in downtown Los Angeles, California carried microbes from the genus, Bartonella, many of which are human pathogens, according to a paper in the November Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

The research team limited their investigation to of the species Xenopsylla cheopis, because they are known both to infest Rattus norvegicus, the Norway rat, which is a major pest in high density urban areas, as well as to bite humans, says first author Sarah Billeter of the , Fort Collins, CO.

Bartonella species are gram-negative bacteria that infect and of the host. More than half are thought to cause some clinical disease in humans. B. rochalimae, found in 72 percent of the collected fleas, was first isolated from the blood of a patient who became ill after returning to the United States from a vacation in Peru, says Billeter. “She complained of fever, insomnia, nausea, headache, and mild cough. Upon examination at the hospital, she was found to have recurrent fever, splenomegaly, and anemia.” B. rochalimae has also been identified as a cause of infectious endocarditis in a dog from San Francisco, says Billeter.

The remaining fleas harbored sequences most closely related to B. tribocorum, a bacterium that has been detected in rodents “from various parts of the world,” including France, says Billeter, and was isolated from the blood of a febrile Thai patient. “At this point, it remains unclear whether B. tribocorum is a human pathogen,” says Billeter. “From a public health standpoint, however, it is important to determine whether R. norvegicus are reservoirs for zoonotic Bartonella spp. due to their close contact with humans and their pets.” The question of whether X. cheopis can actually spread such pathogens to humans also warrants further investigation, says Billeter.

Explore further: The malaria pathogen's cellular skeleton under a super-microscope

More information: S. A. Billeter,V. Gundi, M. P. Rood and M.Y. Kosoy, 2011. Molecular Detection and Identification of Bartonella Species in Xenopsylla cheopis Fleas (Siphonaptera: Pulicidae) Collected from Rattus norvegicus Rats in Los Angeles, California. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 77:7850-7852

Provided by American Society For Microbiology

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New bacterium discovered -- related to cause of trench fever

Jun 07, 2007

A close cousin of the bacterium that debilitated thousands of World War I soldiers has been isolated at UCSF from a patient who had been on an international vacation. The woman, who has since recovered, suffered from symptoms ...

Tally for violence 'shocking'

Nov 08, 2011

The economic costs for women who leave an abusive partner do not end once they walk out the door. In fact, the ongoing costs in Canada equal a staggering $6.9 billion annually.

Libya records 13 cases of bubonic plague

Jun 17, 2009

Thirteen cases of bubonic plague have been recorded in eastern Libya, near the border with Egypt, Health Minister Mohamad Hijazi told AFP on Wednesday, stressing the situation was under control.

Recommended for you

For resetting circadian rhythms, neural cooperation is key

8 hours ago

Fruit flies are pretty predictable when it comes to scheduling their days, with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and rest times in between. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on April 17th h ...

Rapid and accurate mRNA detection in plant tissues

10 hours ago

Gene expression is the process whereby the genetic information of DNA is used to manufacture functional products, such as proteins, which have numerous different functions in living organisms. Messenger RNA (mRNA) serves ...

For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

Apr 16, 2014

From far away, the top of a leaf looks like one seamless surface; however, up close, that smooth exterior is actually made up of a patchwork of cells in a variety of shapes and sizes. Interested in how these ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Nov 17, 2011
I know some people who were also trapped in downtown NY. Fortunately they managed to escape with their lives.

I doubt if they would have been so lucky if they had found themselves in Detroit of Florida.

More news stories

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...