Bartonella: A New Frontier in Chronic Disease
Excerpted from Med Monthly ( Posted: 07/02/2012)
New research recently published in the journal of Emerging Infectious Diseasesupports an association between Bartonella infection and rheumatological symptoms. The researchers tested 296 immunocompetent patients for evidence of Bartonella infection. Bacteremia with one or more Bartonellaspecies was found in (41 percent) of patients with a prior diagnosis of Lyme disease (47 percent), arthralgia/arthritis (21 percent), chronic fatigue (20 percent) and fibromyalgia (6 percent). This study follows two decades of medical case series research implicating Bartonella infection in chronic diseases affecting the joints, neurological and vascular systems.
Bartonella are highly fastidious, immune-evasive, gram-negative bacteria which infect at very low levels of detection. As a result, conventional serological and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing technologies are of limited value for the confirmation of infection. These surprising new findings were made possible by a new testing technology developed by researchers at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine (NCSU-CVM). The NCSU research team discovered a way to overcome past testing challenges through the development and use of a propriety enrichment media (Bartonella alpha-proteobacteria growth medium or BAP-G-M). When paired with highly sensitive PCR testing, the BAPGM media increases the sensitivity of detection by 4 to 5 times over conventional methods.
Popularly known as the key agents in cat scratch disease (CSD), trench fever, and carrion’s disease, Bartonella were essentially rediscovered in the 1990s with the emergence of HIV and the clinical application of DNA testing technologies. There are now over 25 characterized species of Bartonella, 12 of which have been documented as pathogenic for humans. A wide range of animals serve as natural hosts for this zoonotic bacteria, most significantly the cat and rodent populations, which may be transmitted by a number of different vectors including fleas, lice, ticks, and biting flies.
A 2004 Nature article describes Bartonella as one of the most important pathogens in emerging infectious disease along with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). Unlike H. pylori, however, Bartonella is not localized to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, but can infect multiple systems in the body.