A Serious Disease With Potentially Serious Consequences

NOV 08- Bartonella henselae and Bartonella quintana, sometimes referred to as “cat-scratch” and “trench” fever respectively, are two types of intracellular gram negative bacteria which can cause severe, chronic health issues and sudden death. New Jersey residents are at high risk for exposure to various Bartonella bacteria.

Possible signs and symptoms- Fatigue, dizziness, stiff legs, pain in feet (especially bottom of feet), sweats, restlessness, myalgias, heart attacks, heart valve problems, endocarditis (mortality 25%), cardiomegaly, strokes, skin rashes, skin tags, streaks (reddish/purple) that look like stretch marks, aseptic meningitis, encephalopathy, fever, panic attacks, liver or spleen abnormalities, abscesses, hot flashes, muscle cramps, confusion, abdominal pain, hepatitis, seizures (mild to severe), numbness in hands, rage, depression, difficulty walking, facial numbness, urinary problems or arthritis.

Some patients experience headaches, lymphadenopathy, cognitive dysfunction, CNS lesions, red splotches or slightly raised red spots on skin, spider veins, bone pain- especially in shins (Bartonella quintana, aka shin bone fever) and along the rib cage, subcutaneous nodules, softening of bone, bone infections, radiculitis, transverse myelitis, polyneuropathy, slurred speech, respiratory complications, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, irregular pulse and an array of eye related problems such as dry eyes, conjunctivitis, neuroretinitis and a distortion or loss of vision.

Bartonella symptoms may wax and wane or appear to be in remission. If not treated properly in the early stages, Bartonella can become a disabling condition that can be expensive and difficult to treat. Bartonella has been misdiagnosed or mistaken for vasculitis, breast cancer, hepatitis, Kaposi’s sarcoma, splenic lymphoma and a variety of neurological and psychiatric illnesses. People infected with Bartonella may also be coinfected with one or more of the 300 plus known Lyme strains, viruses and/or additional vector borne infectious diseases.

Bartonella organisms have been detected in ticks, fleas, cats, mice, rats, voles, pigs, dogs, ear mites, lice, flies, bobcats, elk, animal saliva, dust mites, mountain lions, deer, coyotes, fox and feces.

Research is needed to determine if there are additional carriers, transmitters and more unidentified species of Bartonella. Physicians must be trained to look for Bartonella infections in their patients and accurate tests must be developed to detect Bartonella species in both animals and humans.

Special note- Bartonella bacteremia has been detected in 89% beef cattle tested from Oklahoma and 17% of dairy cattle from California. Recently, a study by the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University reported finding one or more species of bartonella in 82.4% of cattle they tested.

Treatment: There is no one-size-fits-all treatment protocol for Bartonella infections. Doxycycline, rifampin, ciprofloxacin, erythromycin, tetracycline, clarithromycin, azithromycin or combinations of antibiotics have been used with varying degrees of success. Retreatment is often necessary in long standing cases.