Highly prevalent bartonellae and other vector-borne pathogens in small mammal species from the Czech Republic and Germany
Background Rodents are important reservoirs for zoonotic vector-borne agents. Thus, the distribution of rodents and their vicinity to humans and companion animals may have an important impact on human and animal health. However, the reservoir potential of some rodent genera, e.g. Microtus, has not yet been precisely examined concerning tick-borne pathogens in Central Europe. Therefore, we examined small mammals from Germany and the Czech Republic for the following vector-borne pathogens: Babesia spp., Bartonella spp., Anaplasma phagocytophilum, “Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis” (CNM) and Coxiella burnetii. Spleen DNA from 321 small mammals belonging to four genera, Myodes (n = 78), Apodemus (n = 56), Microtus (n = 149), Sorex (n = 38), collected during 2014 in Germany and the Czech Republic were available for this study. DNA samples were examined for the presence of Babesia and Bartonella DNA by conventional PCR targeting the 18S rRNA gene and the 16S–23S rRNA intergenic spacer region, respectively. For the detection of CNM, A. phagocytophilum and C. burnetii real-time PCR assays were performed. Results Bartonella spp. DNA was detected in 216 specimens (67.3%) with 102/174 (58.6%) positive in Germany and 114/147 (77.6%) in the Czech Republic. The prevalence in each genus was 44.9% for Myodes, 63.2% for Sorex, 77.2% for Microtus and 75% for Apodemus. Four Bartonella species, i.e. Bartonella sp. N40, B. grahamii, B. taylorii and B. doshiae, as well as uncultured bartonellae, were detected. The Bartonella species diversity was higher in rodents than in shrews. In total, 27/321 (8.4%) small mammals were positive for CNM and 3/321 (0.9%) for A. phagocytophilum (S. coronatus and M. glareolus). All samples were negative for Babesia spp. and Coxiella spp. Conclusions While the detected high prevalence for Bartonella in Apodemus and Myodes spp. is confirmatory with previous findings, the prevalence in Microtus spp. was unexpectedly high. This indicates that individuals belonging to this genus may be regarded as potential reservoirs. Interestingly, only Sorex spp. and M. glareolus were positive for A. phagocytophilum in the present study, suggesting a possible importance of the latter for the maintenance of certain A. phagocytophilum strains in nature.