Infection and seroprevalence of Borrelia persica in domestic cats and dogs in Israel

Gad Baneth*, Ann Dvorkin, Bar Ben-Shitrit, Gabriela Kleinerman, Harold Salant, Reinhard K. Straubinger, Yaarit Nachum-Biala

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Relapsing fever borreliosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the genus Borrelia, inflicting recurrent episodes of fever and spirochetemia in humans. Borrelia persica, the causative agent of relapsing fever in Israel, is prevalent over a broad geographic area that extends from India to Egypt. It is transmitted by the soft tick Ornithodoros tholozani and causes disease in humans as well as domestic cats and dogs. The goal of this study was to survey domestic dogs and cats in Israel for infection with B. persica. Methods: Blood, sera and demographic and clinical data were collected from dogs and cats brought for veterinary care in central Israel. PCR followed by DNA sequencing was used to detect B. persica DNA in blood samples, and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was used to detect antibodies reactive with B. persica antigens in sera from the same animals. This is the first serological survey of B. persica in dogs and the first survey for antibodies reactive with a relapsing fever Borrelia sp. in cats globally. Results: Four of the 208 dogs (1.9%) and three of 103 cats (2.9%) sampled were positive by PCR for B. persica DNA, and 24 dogs (11.5%) and 18 cats (17.5%) were seropositive for B. persica antigen by ELISA. The ratio between PCR-positivity and seropositivity in both the dog and cat populations was 1:6. All four PCR-positive dogs and two of three PCR-positive cats were seronegative, suggesting a probable recent infection. Thrombocytopenia showed significant association with seropositivity in dogs (P = 0.003). In cats, anemia had a significant association with seropositivity (P = 0.0001), and thrombocytopenia was associated with the combined prevalence of seropositivity or PCR-positivity (P = 0.022). Conclusions: Borrelia persica infection is more prevalent and widespread in domestic canine and feline populations in Israel than previously thought. Dogs and cats may play a role as reservoirs and sentinels for human infection. Precautions should be taken to prevent transfusion-transmitted infection between blood donor and recipient animals. Graphic Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageAmerican English
Article number102
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

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  • Anemia
  • Borrelia persica
  • Cat
  • Dog
  • Israel
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Tick-borne relapsing fever


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