Bartonella Newborns

Disease Caused By Insect Bites Can Be Transmitted To Children At Birth

For Immediate Release

Tracey Peake, News Services

North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina


May 5, 2010

http://news. uncategorized/ bartonella/

(Includes embedded video featuring Dr. Ed Breitschwerdt, professor of

internal medicine at North Carolina State University, discussing recent

research into the Bartonella bacteria. Animals and humans can both

become infected with the bacteria from insect bites.)

A North Carolina State University researcher 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.

Dr. Ed Breitschwerdt, professor of internal medicine in the Department

of Clinical Sciences, 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,

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.

In his most recent case study, Breitschwerdt' s research group tested

blood and tissue samples taken over a period of years from a mother,

father and son who had suffered chronic illnesses for over a decade.

Autopsy samples from their daughter - the son's twin who died shortly

after birth - contained DNA evidence of B. henselae and B. vinsonii

subsp. berkhoffi infection, which was also found in the other members of

the family.

Both parents had suffered recurring neurological symptoms including

headaches and memory loss, as well as shortness of breath, muscle

weakness and fatigue before the children were born. In addition, their

10-year-old son was chronically ill from birth and their daughter died

due to a heart defect at nine days of age.

Results of the parents' medical histories and the microbiological tests

indicated that the parents had been exposed to Bartonella prior to the

birth of the twins, and finding the same bacteria in both children, one

shortly after birth and the other 10 years later, indicates that they

may have become infected while in utero.

Breitschwerdt' s research appears online in the April 14 Journal of

Clinical Microbiology.

"This is yet more evidence that Bartonella bacteria cause chronic

intravascular infections in people with otherwise normal immune systems,

infections that can span a decade or more," Breitschwerdt says. "Also

this new evidence supports the potential of trans-placental infection

and raises the possibility that maternal infection with these bacteria

might also cause birth defects."

The Department of Clinical Sciences is part of NC State's College of

Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Breitschwerdt is also an adjunct professor of

medicine at Duke University Medical Center.


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