Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Laura Runyen-Janecky


At least 22 species of Bartonella bacteria have been named and many are associated with one of a list of potential mammalian reservoirs and arthropod vectors. One example of such a system is the parasitism of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) of the Western U.S. by Oropyslla hirsuta and Pulex simulans fleas. These vectors are thought to maintain B. washoensis infection in these mammals, but little is known about their role in the specialization of this strain to this reservoir. We found that the more specialist O. hirsuta fleas were much more likely to be infected with B. washoensis than the generalist P. simulans vector. Also, as expected, fleas collected from infected hosts were more likely to carry that infection than those collected from blood culture negative hosts. However, some generalist and host culture negative fleas were found to carry B. washoensis. Therefore, we believe that O. hirsuta fleas are the primary vector of B. washoensis infection in black-tailed prairie dogs in the Western U.S., and that these vectors can jump from host to host, feeding on multiple organisms in a lifetime.

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Biology Commons