In the latest sign of climate change, Bartonella henselae, a coinfection of Lyme usually found in more temperate regions, has been detected in the blood of arctic foxes. Research suggests that migratory geese have given Bart-infected fleas a ride north, where the bacterium can now survive. Below we share the abstract of the study. You can read the entire @BioMedCentral post here.
In a warmer and more globally connected Arctic, vector-borne pathogens of zoonotic importance may be increasing in prevalence in native wildlife. Recently, Bartonella henselae, the causative agent of cat scratch fever, was detected in blood collected from arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) that were captured and released in the large goose colony at Karrak Lake, Nunavut, Canada. This bacterium is generally associated with cats and cat fleas, which are absent from Arctic ecosystems. Arctic foxes in this region feed extensively on migratory geese, their eggs, and their goslings. Thus, we hypothesized that a nest flea, Ceratophyllus vagabundus vagabundus (Boheman, 1865), may serve as a vector for transmission of Bartonella spp.
We determined the prevalence of Bartonella spp. in (i) nest fleas collected from 5 arctic fox dens and (ii) 37 surrounding goose nests, (iii) fleas collected from 20 geese harvested during arrival at the nesting grounds and (iv) blood clots from 57 adult live-captured arctic foxes. A subsample of fleas were identified morphologically as C. v. vagabundus. Remaining fleas were pooled for each nest, den, or host. DNA was extracted from flea pools and blood clots and analyzed with conventional and real-time polymerase chain reactions targeting the 16S-23S rRNA intergenic transcribed spacer region.
Bartonella henselae was identified in 43% of pooled flea samples from nests and 40% of pooled flea samples from fox dens. Bartonella vinsonii berkhoffii was identified in 30% of pooled flea samples collected from 20 geese. Both B. vinsonii berkhoffii (n = 2) and B. rochalimae (n = 1) were identified in the blood of foxes.
We confirm that B. henselae, B. vinsonii berkhoffii and B. rochalimae circulate in the Karrak Lake ecosystem and that nest fleas contain B. vinsonii and B. henselae DNA, suggesting that this flea may serve as a potential vector for transmission among Arctic wildlife.