Bartonella henselae is known to cause central nervous system (CNS) disease in humans, and neurological signs have been observed in experimentally infected cats. However, the pathogenesis of CNS disease remains unclear. This study was undertaken to determine whether B. henselae infects feline fetal brain cells in vitro. Microglial-cell- and astrocyte-enriched cultures were inoculated with B. henselae. Giménez staining identified bacterial organisms within microglial cells by day 7 postinoculation. The viability of the intracellular bacteria was demonstrated by incubating cultures with gentamicin and plating cell lysate on agar. Electron microscopy identified intracellular organisms with characteristic Bartonella morphology but identified no ultrastructural abnormalities within infected microglial cells. No evidence of infection was seen in Bartonella-inoculated astrocyte cultures. These findings suggest a role for microglia in the pathogenesis of B. henselae-associated neurological disease.
Infection and Immunity
Infect Immun. 2001 Jan;69(1):564-9