2021 journal article
Prevalence of Vector-Borne Pathogens in Reproductive and Non-Reproductive Tissue Samples from Free-Roaming Domestic Cats in the South Atlantic USA
Reservoir to multiple species of zoonotic pathogens, free-roaming cats (FRCs) interact with domestic and wild animals, vectors, and humans. To assess the potential for feline vector-borne pathogens to be vertically transmitted, this study surveyed ear tip and reproductive tissues of FRCs from two locations in the South Atlantic United States for Anaplasma, Bartonella, Ehrlichia, hemotropic Mycoplasma, and Rickettsia species. We collected ovary (n = 72), uterus (n = 54), testicle (n = 74), and ear tip (n = 73) tissue from 73 cats, and fetal (n = 20) and placental (n = 19) tissue from 11 queens. Pathogen DNA was amplified utilizing qPCR, confirmed by sequencing. Cats were more frequently Bartonella henselae positive on reproductive tissues (19%, 14/73) than ear tip (5%, 4/73; p = 0.02). B. henselae was amplified from fetus (20%, 4/20) and placenta samples (11%, 2/19). Bartonella spp. infection was more common in cats from North Carolina (76%, 26/34) than Virginia (13%, 5/39; p < 0.0001). Fourteen percent (10/73) of both ear tip and reproductive tissues were positive for hemotropic Mycoplasma spp. Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and Rickettsia spp. DNA was not amplified from any cat/tissue. These findings suggest that B. henselae preferentially infected cats’ reproductive tissue and reinforces the importance of investigating the potential for B. henselae vertical transmission or induction of reproductive failure.