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Bartonella or "cat scratch fever"

What is Bartonella?Orange cat in the outdoors

Bartonella, also known as “Cat Scratch Fever”, is an emerging bacterial zoonotic disease found all over the world.  They are blood-loving, oxygen-avoidant bacteria that are typically transmitted by biting insects such as fleas, sand flies, mosquitoes, and ticks, or cat scratches.

Prevalence

There are over 20 known species of pathogenic Bartonella including B. henselae, B. quintana, etc. Four of them have been isolated in cats, which is why it is called “Cat Scratch Fever.” Reliable Bartonella serum antibody tests are limited to the species B. henselae and B. quintana.  However, newly developed fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) testing is now able to detect Bartonella at the species level.

Bartonellosis was first isolated in the early 1920s, and the prevalence of the infection varies geographically.  Northern climates reportedly have less prevalence of the disease, although this trend is changing in conjunction with global climate change.

Effect on Immune System Function

Bartonella infection is characterized by regional lymphadenopathy, low-grade fever, malaise, muscle aches, joint pain, and chronic fatigue.  There have also been reported cases of the enlarged spleen, endocarditis, and encephalitis due to infection.

The infection in immunocompromised patients with low natural killer cells, low T helper cells, and low T suppressor cells present with “red streaks” resembling cat scratches, and this condition is known as bacillary angiomatosis or peliosis.

Studies of patients infected with Bartonella reveal that this bacteria has a particular affinity for the vascular endothelium where organisms are observed in clumps along the vessel wall.  This is an advantageous residence for bacteria that utilize nutrients in the host’s blood for their benefit.

Clustering of Bartonella cases within families has been observed especially when they have adopted feral cats.  Ocular, neurologic, dermatologic, hematologic, orthopedic, cardiac, renal, and pulmonary presentations are typical for Bartonella infections. Symptom presentation may vary among family members.

Treatment

A combination of herbs, antibiotics, immune support, alkalized diet, and exercise are the recommended treatment.