Bartonella infections are prevalent in rodents despite efficient immune responses

Ruth Rodríguez-Pastor, Adam Z. Hasik, Nadav Knossow, Enav Bar-Shira, Naama Shahar, Ricardo Gutiérrez, Luis Zaman, Shimon Harrus, Richard E. Lenski, Jeffrey E. Barrick, Hadas Hawlena*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Pathogens face strong selection from host immune responses, yet many host populations support pervasive pathogen populations. We investigated this puzzle in a model system of Bartonella and rodents from Israel’s northwestern Negev Desert. We chose to study this system because, in this region, 75–100% of rodents are infected with Bartonella at any given time, despite an efficient immunological response. In this region, Bartonella species circulate in three rodent species, and we tested the hypothesis that at least one of these hosts exhibits a waning immune response to Bartonella, which allows reinfections. Methods: We inoculated captive animals of all three rodent species with the same Bartonella strain, and we quantified the bacterial dynamics and Bartonella-specific immunoglobulin G antibody kinetics over a period of 139 days after the primary inoculation, and then for 60 days following reinoculation with the same strain. Results: Contrary to our hypothesis, we found a strong, long-lasting immunoglobulin G antibody response, with protective immunological memory in all three rodent species. That response prevented reinfection upon exposure of the rodents to the same Bartonella strain. Conclusions: This study constitutes an initial step toward understanding how the interplay between traits of Bartonella and their hosts influences the epidemiological dynamics of these pathogens in nature. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageAmerican English
Article number315
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by an Israel Foundation Science grant (award 1391/15 to HH) and an Ecology of Infectious Diseases grant (award DEB-1813069 from the National Science Foundation) under the auspices of the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation to LZ (principal investigator; PI), HH (PI), JEB, REL, and SH (co-PIs). AZH was supported by the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program and RRP was supported by fellowships from the Kreitman School of Advanced Graduate Studies and the Swiss Institute for Dryland Environmental and Energy Research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, BioMed Central Ltd., part of Springer Nature.


  • Antigen escape
  • Bacterial dynamics
  • Disease ecology
  • Ecoimmunology
  • Host–pathogen interactions
  • Microbial ecology
  • Recurrent bacteremia


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