Rodent-associated Bartonella species are generally host-specific parasites in North America. Here evidence that Bartonella species can 'jump' between host species is presented. Northern grasshopper mice and other rodents were trapped in the western USA. A study of Bartonella infection in grasshopper mice demonstrated a high prevalence that varied from 25% to 90% by location. Bartonella infection was detected in other rodent species with a high prevalence as well. Sequence analyses of gltA identified 29 Bartonella variants in rodents, 10 of which were obtained from grasshopper mice. Among these 10, only six variants were specific to grasshopper mice, whereas four were identical to variants specific to deer mice or 13-lined ground squirrels. Fourteen of 90 sequenced isolates obtained from grasshopper mice were strains found more commonly in other rodent species and were apparently acquired from these animals. The ecological behavior of grasshopper mice may explain the occurrence of Bartonella strains in occasional hosts. The observed rate at which Bartonella jumps from a donor host species to the grasshopper mouse was directly proportional to a metric of donor host density and to the prevalence of Bartonella in the donor host, and inversely proportional to the same parameters for the grasshopper mouse. ?? 2007 Federation of European Microbiological Societies.