The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of Bartonella henselae, Rickettsia felis, and Rickettsia typhi in fleas and companion cats (serum and claws) and to assess their presence as a function of host, host habitat, and level of parasitism. Eighty-nine serum and claw samples and 90 flea pools were collected. Cat sera were assayed by IFA for Bartonella henselae and Rickettssia species IgG antibodies. Conventional PCRs were performed on DNA extracted from nails and fleas collected from cats. A large portion (55.8%) of the feline population sampled was exposed to at least one of the three tested vector-borne pathogens. Seroreactivity to B. henselae was found in 50% of the feline studied population, and to R. felis in 16.3%. R. typhi antibodies were not found in any cat. No Bartonella sp. DNA was amplified from the claws. Flea samples from 41 cats (46%) showed molecular evidence for at least one pathogen; our study demonstrated a prevalence rate of 43.3 % of Rickettsia sp and 4.4% of Bartonella sp. in the studied flea population. None of the risk factors studied (cat's features, host habitat, and level of parasitation) was associated with either the serology or the PCR results for Bartonella sp. and Rickettsia sp.. Flea-associated infectious agents are common in cats and fleas and support the recommendation that stringent flea control should be maintained on cats.
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Vol. 40 • No. 2