Identification of a Bartonella species in the harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) and in seal lice (Echinophtirius horridus)

Danny Morick, Nynke Osinga, Erik Gruys, Shimon Harrus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


To explore whether harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) are exposed to Bartonella spp., 35 seal lice (Echinophtirius horridus) were collected from seven seals, during their rehabilitation period in the Seal Rehabilitation and Research Center at Pieterburen, The Netherlands. Forty-eight spleen samples were collected during necropsies of other harbor seals that died during rehabilitation, or had stranded dead and were brought to the Seal Rehabilitation and Research Center for postmortem investigation. Lice were grouped into six pools, and DNA was extracted from each pool and from all the seals' spleen samples. One of the six lice pools and one spleen sample were found positive by high-resolution melt, real-time PCR amplifying partial loci of the rpoB gene, and the intergenic spacer (ITS) region. The Bartonella spp. identified in the spleen and lice were found to be identical to each other. One hundred percent sequence similarity with Bartonella henselae was found in the ITS, and 97% sequence similarity with Bartonella grahamii was detected in the rpoB gene. To the best of the authors' knowledge, this is the first report describing the detection of Bartonella spp. from a seal or any other pinniped, and from seal lice, E. horridus. The 100% sequence similarity in the ITS of the Bartonella sp. identified with the zoonotic B. henselae warrants further investigation and characterization of this organism, which may be found to be of public health importance.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)751-753
Number of pages3
JournalVector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2009


  • Bartonella
  • Echinophtirius horridus
  • Harbor seal
  • Phoca vitulina
  • Seal louse


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