Bartonellosis: An emerging and potentially hidden epidemic? - Veterinary Medicine
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Bartonellosis: An emerging and potentially hidden epidemic?
Bartonella species, their animal hosts, potential vectors, and sequelae of infection are being identified at a snowballing rate. A new diagnostic test may help DVMs and MDs come together to better understand these infections in their patients.



About two years ago, my 86-year-old father, who lived in a rural farm community and had developed gradual, progressive joint pain, was tested for Lyme disease, and the results were negative. He subsequently developed memory loss that was thought to be possible Alzheimer's disease. He then fell twice a few weeks apart, and a third time he fell, his hip fractured. He had many postoperative complications, and during his stay in a rehabilitation hospital he developed seizures.

At this point I became intimately involved in his medical evaluations, and because I direct the Intracellular Pathogens Research Laboratory at NCSU, I was given his aseptically obtained blood and CSF samples for testing. The results of PCR tests for Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and Rickettsia species were negative. We ultimately identified what appears to be a new Bartonella species, most closely related to "Candidatus Bartonella volans," in his blood, as well as B. henselae and B. vinsonii ssp. berkhoffii.40


There are several more examples in the literature that describe people with unexplained and chronic illnesses, who are identified as having positive Bartonella species test results. What I have described today doesn't prove causation of illness, but I think we have justification to worry about disease causation. Bartonella species infection is truly a problem in comparative medicine and a place where One Medicine applies. Veterinarians and physicians need to work closely to find solutions for the benefit of our respective patients. Although we still have much to learn about these bacteria, we now have a better way of detecting them in patient samples; therefore, we need to find out what they're doing in our patients and how often they're doing it.

Editor's note: In conjunction with Dr. Sushama Sontakke and North Carolina State University, Dr. Breitschwerdt holds U.S. Patent No. 7,115,385; Media and Methods for cultivation of microorganisms, which was issued October 3, 2006. He is the chief scientific officer for Galaxy Diagnostics, a newly formed company that provides diagnostic testing for the detection of Bartonella species infection in animals and in human patient samples.

Funding support for some of the research involving people at the NCSU Intracellular Pathogens Research Laboratory was provided by the ACVIM Foundation, the Kindy French Foundation, and Bayer Animal Health.


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