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Avatar universal

Curious about the seriousness of Bartonella

I'm baaaack, with another question or I should say questions.. LOL
I have been checking things out and reading up on some literature regarding Bartonella. It has been stated that this infection can be serious, but I have mainly seen this written about people who are infected with HIV or compromised immune systems. Could this be also considered in people who have thyroid disease?

Do people who have had cat scratch disease (bartonella) and are experiencing alot of the Bartonella symptoms 20 yrs later have to have longer more intense treatment?

I have also read somewhere that bartonella  "IS" a disease and "LYME" Is it's co-infection?? See this type of stuff confuses the cr-p outta me, LOL

I trust all of my wonderful smart friends could help clarify this for me :)

Thanks for your patience with me,
Hugs, Pam
18 Responses
Avatar universal
There is a wikipedia entry for Bartonella (the bacteria) and a separate one for Bartonellosis (an infection caused by Bartonella).  This is the lead paragraph for the disease:

"Bartonellosis is an infectious disease produced by bacteria of the genus Bartonella.[1] Bartonella species cause diseases such as Carrión´s disease, trench fever, and cat scratch disease, and other recognized diseases, such as bacillary angiomatosis, peliosis hepatis, chronic bacteremia, endocarditis, chronic lymphadenopathy, and neurological disorders.[2]"

These are all potentially serious effects.  The ticks that carry Lyme may also carry Bartonella, but they are not related (that I know of) except that they may occur together.  That is, a red car may park next to a blue car in the parking lot, but that doesn't mean they are related to each other except that they are in the parking lot at the same time.

People with HIV etc. may get Bartonella simply because anyone can get it and someone with a suppressed immune system (which is how HIV does its work) is more likely to be unable to defend against a so-called opportunistic infection, meaning it gets lucky when it finds a host unable to fight it off.

I don't know that thyroid dysfunction has any relation to Bartonella, but it may have a relationship to Lyme, because (from what I read) Lyme likes to mess with the  endocrine system, which includes thyroid function.

There are some people posting here sometimes who I think have mentioned Bartonella.  You might search for it in the box at the top of the page.
1692704 tn?1307211780
I was told once you have Bartonella, there's no cure and you always will have it, but you can put it into remission. It's almost as difficult to treat as Lyme Disease. I have Bartonella and so far my treatment has not worked. As far as I know Bartonella is considered just as much as a disease as Lyme. I don't think I answered your question real well, this is just what I know about Bartonella.
I have read that Bartonella is more serious than Lyme Disease. It becomes the primary infection when combined with Lyme disease.
Avatar universal
I just did a little reading on Bartonella, and not sure it's incurable ...
428506 tn?1296557399
It is my understanding that ordinary cat scratch is not the same as the tick-borne co-infection.  I'm not sure how much mainstream medicine/science there is in support or even description of Bart.  Sometimes I'll come across terms like "BLO" for "Bart-like organism."  

I think there is where it takes a bit of faith in your LLMD to properly treat you.  I do believe that there are other chronic infections other than Lyme that can complicate your health, and those infections can be just as serious or more so than Lyme itself.  

My LLMD has never felt that Lyme specifically is my primary issue, but he uses the term "Lyme" as an umbrella term for his chronic infection patients.  

I'm normally seek more stringent definitions and definitive proof and evidence-based science, but had no choice but to become more open-minded in pursuing answers to my illness.

So in my opinion, Bart and other co-infections are a gray area and I don't think there is a clear definition or prognosis for many of them.  But at the same time, I do think that chronic infections, ill defined as they may be, can be treated by a good LLMD.  

1692704 tn?1307211780
I was surprised my doctor said it's not curable, but she also believes Lyme is not curable. They believe you can get your immune system in charge and have no symptoms, but you will never get rid of every spirochete. I have mixed feelings about that because I know people who are well after many years of treatments. They are seemingly "cured", but then there are others who have to take antibiotics the rest of their lives. I know it wouldn't bother me whether I am cured or not it only matters that I feel well.
Avatar universal
I haven't ever been diagnosed with Bartonella, so I'm not well read on it, but I haven't read anything that says cat scratch disease is anything BUT Bartonella-caused.  Wikipedia has a thorough write up under 'cat scratch disease', and while I'm as skeptical as anyone about mainstream medicine's issues with these diseases, Bartonella is a big umbrella with many subcategories, so fwiw I lean toward cat scratch being caused by a variety of Bartonella ... but I'm *still* not medically trained!  

That said, Bart is part of the soup that ticks and perhaps other creatures may bring us, and I tend to agree with Ree's doc that it may be that our immune systems can gain the upper hand and quarantine various infections but not entirely eradicate them.  

I don't take that to mean however that there is not the possibility of a 'functional cure' where we generally feel well, but the bugs can flare up if we are otherwise weakened by another disease or stress or whatever life brings us.  The human condition.  Dunno, just some thoughts.

428506 tn?1296557399
I didn't say that cat scratch isn't caused by a strain of bartonella.  I said:  "ordinary cat scratch [disease] is not the same as the tick-borne co-infection."  Cat scratch, as the name suggests is transmitted through...cats!

Like you say, Bart is an umbrella term.  I wasn't saying cat scratch isn't under the umbrella, instead I was attempting to point out that there are other bart-related infections under that umbrella that are the ones believed to be more serious and difficult to treat.  I have not heard of ordinary cat scratch disease being persistent or difficult to treat, and that is why I was trying to distinguish it from the TBI.

Avatar universal
Back when I was first dx'd with cat scratch fever, I did have a cat, and that definately could have caused my problem, but since all of my neuro issues have been tossed around by so many different docs.  not knowing what it was and giving me the waste basket dx,,, I dug alittle deeper into my past.

I honestly had no idea that lyme disease had co-infections. I really didn't know anything about it what'so'ever, and my "cat scratch fever" would have never entered my mind if I had not come here and learning so much more about this.

I was told by my "neuro" that bartonella could cause eye problems, but after he said something that sounded logical, he took it away and said, but I don't think that is your problem.

This is what I think about myself and my issues, .....
I believe that, I might have been bit by a tick at some point in my teenage years. I spent alot of time in the woods with my friends, building forts, partying,, you name it ,,, by the age of 17, I began to have problems with my lymph nodes swelling and painful... had it removed and maybe 1 week of abx. after surgery.
By the time I was 21, any time I would have a drink of alcohol, my arms were heavy and numb, and I used to laugh it off and say my arms were drunk.

At age 22, first panic attack, months later, first episode of slurred speech. Age, 23 and up to 30, slurrred speech, dead useless legs, rage, fibroid cysts, stiff neck multiple times lasting weeks to a month.
Miscarriage, graves disease, eye disease, seizure disorder, and contstant neuro symptoms that come and go.

Bartonella, is a problem for me and I am so curious to know more about it. My lyme doc. had mentioned babesia as well, because of the night sweats.
At this point, I believe that back then (22yrs) ago, they didn't look into things the same way they do now and my "cat scratch fever" was the beginning of my lyme disease/co-infections story....

Thanks everyone!!!
Avatar universal
"I have not heard of ordinary cat scratch disease being persistent or difficult to treat" -- is that basing the premise on the conclusion?  As in:  If it was a mild case, then it must have been cat scratch disease.  But what if cats transmit more than one strain of Bartonella (and there are more than a few) -- then it would be possible for a more serious Bart infection to have also come from a cat's scratch, but the illness has been excluded simply by definition:  that is, if it's a short quick illness, then it was from a cat's scratch; if it's a longer illness, by definition but not by proof, it comes from another vector.

From lymedisease.org (formerly CALDA, California Lyme Disease Assn) is this, which conveys a non-binary approach to Bart infections and indicates that Bart carried by cats can indeed be serious -- emphasis inside **asterisks** is mine:


"Bartonella are bacteria that live inside cells; they can infect humans, mammals, and a wide range of wild animals. Not all Bartonella species cause disease in humans. Bartonella henselae causes an important emerging infection first reported in 1990 and described as a new species in 1992. **It is mainly carried by cats and causes cat-scratch disease, endocarditis, and several other serious diseases in humans.**

"Bartonella bacteria are known to be carried by fleas, body lice and ticks. Scientists suspect that ticks are a source of infection in some human cases of bartonellosis. People with tick bites and no known exposure to cats have acquired the disease. People who recall being bitten by ticks have been co-infected with Lyme and Bartonella. More research needs to be done to establish the role of ticks in spreading the disease.

"Scientists have identified several species of Bartonella. One is carried by sand flies in the Andes Mountains in Peru, Columbia, and Ecuador. Another is found worldwide in human body lice. Bartonella bacteria have been found in the European sheep tick. **Five different Bartonella species have been detected in 19.2% of I. pacificus ticks collected in California.**


"Bartonellosis is often mild but in serious cases it can affect the whole body. Early signs are fever, fatigue, headache, poor appetite, and an unusual, streaked rash. Swollen glands are typical, especially around the head, neck and arms. Burrascano suspects bartonellosis when neurologic symptoms are out of proportion to the other systemic symptoms of chronic Lyme. He also notes gastritis, lower abdominal pain, sore soles, and tender subcutaneous nodules along the extremities. Lymph nodes may be enlarged and the throat can be sore.


"Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and tissue biopsy can be used, however they are also insensitive, as are standard blood tests.


Erythromycin and doxycycline have been used successfully for standard Bartonella, but Burrascano suspects that tick-borne Bartonella is different and recommends levofloxacin or, for children under 18, azithromycin."


My point is that assuming that a cat's scratch can transmit only non-serious infections may be unwarranted, and ultimately it doesn't matter where the Bart came from -- what matters is what strain of the disease one has, not how it was acquired.  Otherwise we fall into the IDSA trap of "no tick and no rash?  then you can't possibly have Lyme".  

It's not the cat's scratch that causes the disease; it's the scratch that transmits it.  My point is to not automatically exclude a serious Bartonella infection because one 'only' got scratched by a cat and therefore it can't be serious.
1692704 tn?1307211780
I forgot to mention that there are different species or strains of Bartonella. Wonko's post reminded me of that. Also when I said not curable I meant the chronic form of these conditions and not the acute form, but I assume everyone knew what I meant.
Pam - If you go to Amazon's website, you can find books on Bartonella. I was looking at them for myself.
1692704 tn?1307211780
I wanted to add that there is a book called "Bartonella: Diagnosis and Treatment" by James Schaller. It refers to the Bartonella co-infection that you get from a tick and says there are 11 different species. This book was copyrighted in 2008, so my guess is there may be even more strains now that aren't known about. It discusses how Bartonella reaches everywhere in your body and causes a multitude of symptoms.
428506 tn?1296557399
"I have not heard of ordinary cat scratch disease being persistent or difficult to treat" -- is that basing the premise on the conclusion?  As in:  If it was a mild case, then it must have been cat scratch disease.

To answer the question:  No, I was not basing the premise on the conclusion.  I was simply stating what I have heard.  I have never heard of a person with a chronic bart-related infection refer to it as "cat scratch disease."  Nor have I heard my LLMD refer to it as such.  Certainly what I have not heard could fill a large warehouse.  But that's no reason to imply malice or lack of rational in what I posted.
Avatar universal
No implication -- just trying to sort it all out.  I can imagine someone being told by a doc 'oh it's just cat scratch disease' and that it's mild and self-limiting, but my faith in docs to be alert to the idea that maybe an infection is just a little more serious is pretty low, so wanted to flag that for anyone reading.  

As in, maybe the *doc* mistook a serious Bart infection for 'just cat scratch' disease.  I got that minimizing response to at least one of my co-infections.  It's poor calibration by the *medical community* of what is serious and what is not.  I can imagine docs assuming that anything related to cat scratch disease is Not A Big Deal, like the mainstream take on Lyme.

Apologies if you were offended.  Not intended.  
Avatar universal
Would you guys believe I had to read these posts multiple times to have it sink into my brain.
I get what you both mean (Jackie and wonko). I think at the time when I was dx'd with CSD, my surgeon actually thought I had hodgkins, so when he told my mother, its cat scratch fever, we were quite relieved because we did not know anymore about this disease, we were just happy that it wasn't cancer.

To me, "what I was dx'd with was minimized" and not taken serious. I did not get an explanation. or any information at all. I don't blame this particular doc. I just don't think it was all that common or he was not educated enough about it. Who knows? lol

I am looking into getting the book about Bartonella, by James Schaller, as ree said, I have noticed it a couple of times during my searches, but it is expensive, and money is becoming tight right now.

My nephew who is a senior in HS is doing his report on lyme disease!!! Because of me,, lol, I told him even if I don't get a dx of it, It's great that he is getting the word out there. He even asked me to be his guest speaker. I will puke!! lol, na, I will do my best!  I get nervous in front of people talking. I told him that I will help him gather information and the best web sites to go to.

This is the second health report he did on me,,, lol the first one was about Graves disease,, can you tell he loves his mimi!! (that's what he calls me)

Avatar universal
oops hit the send button too soon, You guys are great, thanks!
Avatar universal
I think you're great too, Pam -- your strong spirit comes through, and that's only going to help you as you plow ahead.  You go!
Avatar universal
:) <3 :)

Thank you
Avatar universal
Seeing as how even sea turtles carry bartonella, I'd say it's one of those things that are ubiquitous in nature and that pretty much everybody, and everything has some infection with them.  What it is able to do would be dependent upon the host's immune system.  After my first class in microbiology, I had decided that bacteria were really the dominant life form on earth.  All I read here just reinforces that belief.
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