What is a Bartonella Infection?
(Symptoms, Causes & Treatment)
Bartonella are bacteria that live primarily inside the lining of the blood vessels. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Bartonella bacteria cause several diseases in humans. The three most common are cat scratch disease, caused by B. henselae; trench fever, caused by B. quintana; and Carrión’s disease, caused by B. bacilliformis.
Signs and symptoms of a Bartonella infection vary by disease:
Cat scratch disease (CSD), Bartonella henselae
- Low-grade fever may be present
- Enlarged, tender lymph nodes that develop 1–3 weeks after exposure
- A papule or pustule at the inoculation site
Rarely, unusual manifestations such as eye infections, severe muscle pain, or encephalitis may occur.
Trench fever, Bartonella quintana
- Fever (may present as a single bout of fever or bouts of recurrent fever)
- Bone pain, mainly in the shins, neck, and back
Carrión’s disease, Bartonella bacilliformis
This disease has 2 distinct phases:
- Oroya fever: During this phase, patients may present with fever, headache, muscle aches, abdominal pain, and severe anemia.
- Verruga peruana: During this later phase, lesions appear under the skin as nodular growths, then emerge from the skin as red-to-purple vascular lesions that are prone to ulceration and bleeding.
Bartonella bacteria are known to be carried by fleas, body lice and ticks, and there’s high suspicion that ticks transmit it to humans.
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