To explore the potential role of Ixodes ricinus as the presumed vector of Bartonella henselae in eastern Poland, ticks collected in various geographic locations were examined for the presence of B. henselae, and the results were matched against the prevalence of anti-B. henselae antibodies in individuals occupationally exposed to tick bites. The presence of Bartonella DNA was investigated by PCR in a total of 1,603 unfed Ixodes ricinus ticks. The presence of IgG antibodies against B. henselae was investigated in serum samples from 332 people occupationally exposed to tick bites (94 farmers and 238 forestry workers). The total prevalence of B. henselae in ticks was 1.7%; the infection rates in males (3.1%) and females (2.7%) were nearly ten times greater than in nymphs (0.3%). The prevalence of seropositive results in the risk group (30.4%), farmers (27.7%) and forestry workers (31.5%), was significantly greater compared to the control group (8.9%). The results showed a weak positive correlation between the degree of infection of ticks and humans living in the same geographic region. The lack of a direct relationship indicates that exposure to tick bites is only one of the factors contributing to the significant preponderance of a seropositive response to B. henselae in the forestry workers and farmers over the control group. Other factors must be considered, such as contact with cats, which are popular domestic animals in Polish villages, and exposure to cat fleas.
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Vol. 40 • No. 1