Molecular Detection of Bartonella DNA in the Blood of Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta)
IAAAM Archive
K. Hope Valentine1; Craig A. Harms1,2; Maria B. Cadenas1; Adam J. Birkenheuer1; Henry S. Marr1; Joanne Braun-McNeill3; Ricardo G. Maggi1; Edward B. Breitschwerdt1
1Intracellular Pathogens Research Laboratory, Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Raleigh, NC, USA; 2Center for Marine Sciences and Technology, Morehead City, NC, USA; 3National Marine Fisheries Service, Beaufort, NC, US


Bartonella species are emerging pathogens that have been isolated from humans and other mammals throughout the world, including the recent discovery of B. henselae in the blood of marine mammals.3 Due to improvements in molecular diagnostic testing, an increasingly diverse spectrum of Bartonella-associated pathology has been recognized in canine and human PCR,1,2 targeting the 16S-23S intergenic spacer (ITS) region was used to screen for Bartonella DNA in blood samples obtained from 37 loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) from North Carolina, including 29 free-ranging and 8 captive pre-release rehabilitated turtles. ITS-PCR amplicons were obtained from 13 free-ranging and 3 rehabilitated turtles. Sequencing identified at least two distinct B. henselae genetic variants and a B. vinsonii subspecies berkhoffii-like amplicon. To our knowledge, the detection of Bartonella species DNA in sea turtle blood represents the first molecular evidence of Bartonella infection in a non-mammalian animal species. The geographic distribution, prevalence of infection, carrier potential, mode of transmission, and pathogenicity of blood-borne Bartonella species in sea turtles awaits additional studies.


We thank Jean Beasley, Matthew Godfrey, Larisa Avens, April Goodman, Lisa Goshe, Nicole Mihnovets, and Leonard Goodwin for facilitating collection sea turtle blood samples. This research was supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine, Merck-Merial Summer Veterinary Scholars Program, and the State of North Carolina.


1.  Boulouis HJ, Chang CC, Henn JB, Kasten RW, BB Chomel. 2005. Factors associated with the rapid emergence of zoonotic Bartonella infections. Vet. Res. 36:383-410.

2.  Chomel BB, Boulouis HJ, Maruyama S, EB Breitschwerdt. 2006. Bartonella spp. in pets and effect on human health. Emerg. Infect. Dis. 12(3):389-94.

3.  Maggi RG, Harms CA, Hohn AA, Pabst DA, McLellan WA, Walton WJ, Rotstein, DS, EB Breitschwerdt. 2005. Bartonella henselae in porpoise blood. Emerg. Infect. Dis. 11(12):1894-8.

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K. Hope Valentine

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