Trapper-killed North American river otters (Lontra canadensis) in North Carolina, USA, were screened for multiple vector-borne bacteria known to be pathogenic to mammals. Blood was collected from 30 carcasses in 2006, from 35 in 2007, and from one live otter in 2008. Samples were screened using conventional polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for DNA from Bartonella spp., Ehrlichia spp., and spotted fever group Rickettsia spp. All samples were negative for Rickettsia spp. Twelve of 30 samples from 2006 produced amplicons using the assay designed to detect Ehrlichia spp., but sequencing revealed that the amplified DNA fragment was from a novel Wolbachia sp., thought to be an endosymbiote of a Dirofilaria sp. Between 2006 and 2007, DNA from a novel Bartonella sp. was detected in 19 of 65 animals (29%). Blood from one live otter captured in 2008 was found positive for this Bartonella sp. by both PCR and culture. The pathogenicity of this Bartonella species in river otters or other mammals is unknown.
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Vol. 46 • No. 3