Molecular survey and genetic diversity of Bartonella spp. in small Indian mongooses (Urva auropunctata) and their fleas on Saint Kitts, West Indies.
This study aimed to molecularly survey and evaluate the genetic diversity of Bartonella spp. in mongooses and their fleas from St. Kitts. Spleen (n = 54), blood (n = 71), and pooled flea samples, all identified as Ctenocephalides felis (n = 53), were submitted to TaqMan real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) targeting Bartonella-nuoG fragment (84 bp). Positive samples underwent further conventional PCR assays targeting five loci (gltA, rpoB, fstZ, nuoG, and ITS), subsequent sequencing, and phylogenetic and haplotype analyses. The overall occurrence of Bartonella spp. in mongooses and fleas was 51.2% (64/125 [95% CI (42.1-60.2%)]) and 62.3% (33/53) ([95% CI (47.9-75.2%)]), respectively. From samples sequenced across the five loci, 50.8% (33/65) were identified as Bartonella henselae, 26.2% (17/65) were 96.74-99.01% similar by BLAST analysis to an unidentified Bartonella sp. previously reported in Japanese badgers (Meles anakuma), and 23.1% (15/65) were co-infected with both species. Nucleotide polymorphism analysis showed low diversity amongst haplotypes but did concur with phylogenetic analysis, placing the unidentified species in a separate clade from B. henselae by multiple mutational events. Our data confirms that mongooses and Ctenocephalides felis fleas collected from them are not only potential reservoirs for B. henselae but also a novel Bartonella sp. which we propose be called 'Candidatus Bartonella kittensis'.