Bats and Bacterial Pathogens: A Review


K. Mühldorfer. Research Group of Wildlife Diseases, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Alfred-Kowalke-Str. 17, 10315 Berlin, Germany. Tel.: +49 30 5168246; Fax: +49 30 5126104; E-mail:


The occurrence of emerging infectious diseases and their relevance to human health has increased the interest in bats as potential reservoir hosts and vectors of zoonotic pathogens. But while previous and ongoing research activities predominantly focused on viral agents, the prevalence of pathogenic bacteria in bats and their impact on bat mortality have largely neglected. Enteric pathogens found in bats are often considered to originate from the bats’ diet and foraging habitats, despite the fact that little is known about the actual ecological context or even transmission cycles involving bats, humans and other animals like pets and livestock. For some bacterial pathogens common in human and animal diseases (e.g. Pasteurella, Salmonella, Escherichia and Yersinia spp.), the pathogenic potential has been confirmed for bats. Other bacterial pathogens (e.g. Bartonella, Borrelia and Leptospira spp.) provide evidence for novel species that seem to be specific for bat hosts but might also be of disease importance in humans and other animals. The purpose of this review is to summarize the current knowledge of bacterial pathogens identified in bats and to consider factors that might influence the exposure and susceptibility of bats to bacterial infection but could also affect bacterial transmission rates between bats, humans and other animals.