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News Article

Survey of pathogens in fleas carried by UK cats and dogs


Study highlights a relatively high prevalence of Bartonella spp., which is of concern for both animal and human health

As many as one in four cats and one in seven dogs are carrying fleas, and about 11 per cent of these fleas are infected with potentially pathogenic bacteria, according to a large-scale analysis of owned animals in the UK.

The University of Bristol-led research funded by MSD Animal Health and published in the journal Parasites and Vectors, examined 812 cats and 662 dogs for fleas across 326 UK veterinary practices. Flea samples from each host were analysed for the presence of bacteria.

Overall, 28.1% of cats and 14.4% of dogs were flea infested. More than 90% of the fleas on both cats and dogs were cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis felis). Fleas of the same species from each infested host were pooled. DNA was amplified from 470 of the pooled flea samples using conventional PCR, 66 of which (14%) were positive for at least one pathogen. Fifty-three (11.3%) of the pooled flea DNA samples were positive for Bartonella spp. and 14 (3%) were positive for Dipylidium caninum. Only 3 samples were positive for Mycoplasma haemofelis or Mycoplasma haemocanis.

Professor Richard Wall, Professor of Zoology at Bristol's School of Biological Sciences, said: “Fleas are the most clinically important ectoparasites of dogs and cats worldwide. Rising levels of pet ownership, climate change and globalisation are increasing the importance of a detailed understanding of the endemicity of fleas and prevalence of flea-borne pathogens. This requires continued surveillance to detect change. The results have demonstrated that high numbers of cats and dogs still carry fleas and shown the relatively high prevalence of Bartonella spp. in fleas, which is of significant concern for the pet owners and veterinary practice staff.”

Article: Abdullah, S., Helps, C., Tasker, S., Newbury, H., Wall, R. Pathogens in fleas collected from cats and dogs: distribution and prevalence in the UK. Parasites and Vectors (2019) 12:71, doi: 10.1186/s13071-019-3326-x

Article details

  • Date
  • 14 May 2019
  • Source
  • University of Bristol
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals