Tick Borne Illness: Bartonella
Ticks…it’s a word that can send shivers down the spine. But it’s hard to deny that beautiful spring weather coincides with these nasty little creatures. Tick borne illnesses should not be taken lightly. And one in particular, Bartonellosis, is a real head scratcher. Unfortunately, science hasn’t quite figured out how prevalent the Bartonella bacteria is or its exact pathogenesis. One thing scientists do know is that the Bartonella species is the culprit for Cat Scratch Fever and many times is found alongside the Lyme Disease causing bacteria in a coinfection.
Before the 1990s, Bartonellosis was not even considered a diagnosis in the United States. A University of California, San Francisco team led by Jane Koehler was the first to stumble on the elusive Bartonella bacteria. Bartonella presents a wide variety of symptoms that are very similar to both noninfectious and infectious diseases. According to LymeDisease.org, “early signs include fever, fatigue, headache, poor appetite, and an unusual streaked rash that resembles “stretch marks” from pregnancy. Swollen glands are typical, especially around the head, neck and arms.” Immunocompromised individuals are the most susceptible to the bacteria and can suffer from severe, debilitating symptoms.
So where does tick borne bacteria such as Bartonella and Lyme reside?
Bartonella species are found all over the world. There is no specific location and the bacteria can use several hosts for transmission including sand flies, body lice, fleas (in particular cats), and ticks.
Diagnosing a Bartonella infection is not an easy task. The bacteria live primarily in the blood vessels and infect an individual in such low numbers that they can essentially hide out in the body. A simple blood test is not enough. Typically labs use PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and enrichment cultures, but these techniques are still not foolproof.
You can improve your chances of not contracting Bartonellosis
by avoiding heavily wooded areas, wearing protective clothing, using insect-deterring products, and avoiding animal bites and scratches particularly from feral cats. Prevention is always your best bet. If you have a tick bite or possible tick borne illness, FirstCare Medical Center’s providers are available every day to offer diagnosis and treatment.