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Bartonella henselae is one of the most common zoonotic agents acquired from companion animals (cats) in industrialized countries. Nonetheless, although the prevalence of infections in cats is high, the number of human cases reported is relatively low. One hypothesis for this discrepancy is that B. henselae strains vary in their zoonotic potential. To test this hypothesis, we employed structured sampling to explore the population structure of B. henselae in the United Kingdom and to determine the distribution of strains associated with zoonotic disease within this structure. A total of 118 B. henselae strains were delineated into 12 sequence types (STs) using multilocus sequence typing. We observed that most (85%) of the zoonosis-associated strains belonged to only three genotypes, i.e., ST2, ST5, and ST8. Conversely, most (74%) of the feline isolates belonged to ST4, ST6, and ST7. The difference in host association of ST2, ST5, and ST8 (zoonosis associated) and ST6 (feline) was statistically significant (P < 0.05), indicating that a few, uncommon STs were responsible for the majority of symptomatic human infections.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of clinical microbiology

Publication Date





2132 - 2137


Department for Infection Biology, Institute for Infection and Global Health and School of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, South Wirral CH64 7TE, United Kingdom.


Animals, Cats, Humans, Bartonella henselae, Cat-Scratch Disease, Zoonoses, Bacterial Typing Techniques, Cluster Analysis, Genotype, Molecular Epidemiology, Multilocus Sequence Typing, United Kingdom