The National Organization for Rare Diseases claims Bartonella can cause a group of infections called Bartonellosis. Bartonella is a bacteria transmitted to humans from bugs like fleas, ticks, lice, and flies. The bacteria live inside the lining of blood vessels.
Bartonella is an emerging disease that is often found as a co-infection with Lyme disease. To date, nearly 40 species have been identified. Several of these can cause diseases in humans that can be debilitating. Diseases like cat scratch disease (CSD), endocarditis, trench fever, and Carrion’s disease are examples.
Cat scratch disease is the most commonly known Bartonella infection in humans. It comes from the bacteria strain known as Bartonella henselae. Bartonella Quintana causes trench fever, and B. bacilliformis causes Carrion’s disease.
Cat Scratch Disease
Bartonella henselae is carried by fleas, ticks, or other bugs that latch onto cats, both wild and house cats. If a cat scratches or bites you, it can transmit the bacteria, which will live in your bloodstream.
Symptoms of cat scratch disease include a red rash that looks like stretch marks, low-grade fever, swollen lymph nodes, and in some cases, a small sac of fluid at the site of the scratch.
Bartonella Quintana is transmitted by the human body louse. Lice can quickly move from one human to the next, especially when groups congregate in a small environment. An example is when a classroom full of children has an outbreak of lice. It was given its name because soldiers hiding in trenches together would get the disease.
Symptoms of trench fever include headaches, fever, rash, and bone pain.
Sandflies in the Andes mountains transmit Bartonella bacilliformis. The animal that can carry the infection has not yet been identified.
Symptoms of Carrion’s disease include fever, headaches, muscle aches, anemia, red to purple sores that grow under the skin and appear as warts.
Bartonella and Lyme Disease
If left untreated, symptoms can become chronic. Like Lyme disease, Bartonella symptoms mimic the symptoms of many other conditions, making it difficult for physicians to give you an accurate diagnosis.
Bartonella is often considered a co-infection with Lyme disease. However, it is also its own disease. You can have Bartonella without having Lyme disease. Not getting a diagnosis, or getting a misdiagnosis, can result in chronic, painful symptoms.
Even if your doctor can properly diagnose Lyme disease, it is possible they did not check for Bartonella. Treating one condition and not the other can leave you with the same symptoms, feeling frustrated that treatments did not work.
The doctor you choose must be literate on all things related to Lyme disease co-infections like Bartonella. Otherwise, you risk being left with bacteria that will continue to grow and move to other parts of your body.
Bartonella and Lyme-literate Doctors
A well-meaning doctor can run many tests and find nothing, leaving you feeling frustrated and like you are imagining your symptoms. It would be best if you had a doctor who is familiar with all tick-borne illnesses that are also associated with Lyme disease. These doctors are called Lyme-literate doctors.
Lyme-literate doctors know the longer Bartonella stays in your system, the more likely it will affect your organs and prevent them from functioning correctly.
The good news is that the tests available for Bartonella are much better than those for Lyme disease.
Testing for Bartonella
A Lyme-literate doctor can choose from several test options for Bartonella. Some tests examine blood and spinal fluid to detect Bartonella, others detect Bartonella antibodies, and some look at blood cultures to see if bacteria are present.
Bartonella tests are available for pets too. The National Veterinarian Laboratory created the FeBart test explicitly used for testing cats. Testing your kittens and cats is a great way to reduce the possibility of passing it on to you.
If it is too late for prevention and you think you may have signs of Bartonella infection, treatments are available.
Treatment for Bartonella
Treating Bartonella is similar to treating Lyme disease. Antibiotics are often used as the first line of defense. However, Lyme-literate doctors administer the antibiotics directly into the bloodstream through an IV, attacking the bacteria where it lives.
Based on your Bartonella symptoms, a treatment plan can be created. It will likely include a combination of detoxification, herbal supplements to decrease inflammation, immune-boosting protocols, and anti-microbial and anti-parasitic protocols.
Your doctor may also use biofilm eradication to take treatment to the next level. Biofilms are known to act as armor around bacteria. By eliminating the biofilms, the bacteria have nowhere to hide and can be easier to kill.
A combination of therapies is best because Bartonella, much like Lyme disease bacteria, can hibernate. Using multiple treatment modalities gives you a better chance of killing all bacteria, not just those that are active.
There are numerous treatment options for Lyme disease and co-infections like Bartonella. The hard part is getting diagnosed correctly. There are things you can do to help your doctor give you an accurate diagnosis.
How to Help Your Doctor
To diagnose any ailment, your doctor needs information, and not just from blood testing. That’s because not all tests for Lyme bacteria and Bartonella are 100% accurate. You may go through multiple tests before you can be sure about the results. In the meantime, there are things you can do to help your doctor get it right.
First, take pictures of any unusual markings or rashes you find on your body. Second, document your symptoms. Include time, day, what you were doing, what you ate and drank, and any other possible contributors to your symptoms.
Think of Lyme disease and co-infections like Bartonella as a puzzle. Documentation about your symptoms can provide missing pieces to the puzzle. With this information, your doctor can create a plan that works. You don’t have to live the rest of your life not knowing what is causing your painful symptoms. The answers are out there. Help is available.
A great example of a treatment clinic outside the U.S., Canada, and the UK is the Lyme Mexico Clinic. Call them to find out how you can benefit from their services.