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Flea Bites Linked with Chronic Infections [by a veterinarian], Possible Birth Defects [human infants] - USA

A researcher in North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has discovered that bacteria transmitted by fleas–and potentially ticks–can be passed to human babies by the mother, causing chronic infections and raising the possibility of bacterially induced birth defects.

Edward Breitschwerdt, DVM, DACVIM, a veterinarian and professor of internal medicine in the Department of Clinical Sciences and director of the CVM Intracellular Pathogens Research Laboratory, is among the world’s leading experts on Bartonella, a bacteria that is maintained in nature by fleas, ticks and other biting insects, but which can be transmitted by infected cats and dogs as well.

The most commonly known Bartonella-related illness is cat scratch disease, caused by B. henselae, a strain of Bartonella that can be carried in a cat’s blood for months to years. Cat scratch disease was thought to be a self-limiting, or “one-time” infection; however, Dr. Breitschwerdt’s previous work discovered cases of children and adults with chronic, blood-borne Bartonella infections–from strains of the bacteria that are most often transmitted to cats (B. henselae) and dogs (B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii) by fleas and other insects.



5 Questions on the Flu Outbreak

5 Questions on the Flu Outbreak

The CVM is an integral part of the frontline involved in North Carolina preparedness for infectious disease affecting humans or animals. As part of their public engagement activity, for example, the Epidemiology, Public Health, and Population Medicine faculty members have been monitoring the current influenza situation through participation in conferences calls with federal and state agencies and are working with state officials in ensuring the health of North Carolina?s citizens and animals. The EPHPM faculty contributed answers to the following questions.

How did this Influenza A H1N1 virus, the so-called swine flu, get started?

Science does not yet know exactly how this virus started. It is a different influenza virus from any that have been in the U.S. Influenza viruses can share their genetic material between very different virus groups. If a person, a bird, or a pig, becomes infected with more than one type of influenza, that individual can serve as a "mixing vessel" to allow creation of a modified and completely new virus. It is likely that this co-infection and sharing of genetic material gave this virus its start, but whether it first happened in pigs or people or birds is unknown.
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