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By Lucy Barnes

It is well known that co-infections may occur with Lyme Disease relatively frequently. Patients with a history of Lyme Disease who have incomplete resolution of symptoms should be evaluated for Bartonella infections. Bartonella is an intracellular, gram-negative bacteria that can become chronic. Certain lab tests may not detect the infection due to a variety of strains and the lack of sensitivity of the tests. It is advised to use both PCR and IFA methods of testing and not to dismiss the disease due to negative tests when symptoms are present. Various Bartonella species have been recognized since the early 1950s.

Bartonella may not present in its usual form when additional infections, such as Lyme or Babesia are present. In addition, typical Bartonella lesions are not always seen in patients, therefore, a diagnosis of "fever of unknown origin" should alert a physician to consider Bartonella. It is estimated that approximately 2/3 of the patients with Bartonella have a fever. Involvement of practically every organ has been reported.

There are a variety of symptoms associated with Bartonella, including, but not limited to, the following:

GENERAL: Fatigue, Restlessness, Combative behavior, Myalgias, Malaise, Liver and/or Spleen involvement, Abdominal pain, Infectious Mononucleosis-like Syndrome, Granulomatous Hepatitis

BRAIN: Encephalopathy may occur 1-6 weeks after the initial infection and is fairly common in patients with Bartonella. Note: Approximately 50 percent of patients who develop Encephalopathy can be affected by seizures (from focal to generalized, and from brief and self-limited to status epilepticus). Headaches, Cognitive Dysfunction, and CNS Lesions may be evident.

RASH AND LYMPHADENITIS: Erythematous papules (red splotches or slightly raised red spots) may develop. Such papules occasionally occur on the lower limbs but are more common on the upper limbs, the head, and neck. The papules may appear on the skin or mucous membranes. Bartonella may also cause subcutaneous nodules, with some bone involvement possible. The nodules may show some hyperpigmentation, be tender, fester, and/or be enlarged or swollen, but not always.

EYES: Conjunctivitis, Bartonella Neuroretinitis, Loss of Vision, Flame Shaped Hemorrhages, Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion with Vision Loss, Cotton Wool Exudates, Parinaud.s Oculoglandular Syndrome, and Papilledema.

BONES AND MUSCLES: Osteomyelitis, Myositis, Osteolytic Lesions (softening of bone), Myelitis, Radiculitis, Transverse Myelitis, Arthritis, Chronic Demyelinating Polyneuropathy.

HEART: Endocarditis, Cardiomegaly.

Possible lab findings: The following may show up during standard testing:
Thrombocytopenia, pancytopenia, anemia, elevated serum alkaline phosphatase level, elevated bilirubin, abnormal liver enzymes. X-ray of the bone may show areas of lysis or poorly-defined areas of cortical destruction with periosteal reaction. Cardiomegaly may show up on a chest X-Ray.

Biopsies of lymph nodes reveal pathology often indistinguishable from sarcoidosis. Reports of biopsies strongly suggestive of lymphoma do occur.

Tests occasionally show an enlarged liver with multiple hypodense areas scattered throughout the parenchyma.

TREATMENT: You MUST consult a knowledgeable physician for information on treatment for disseminated Bartonella. Some of the medications which have been used in the past have included Doxycycline (with or without Rifampin), Ciprofloxacin, Erythromycin, Azithromycin, trimethoprim-sulphamethoxazole, gentamicin, and other macrolide antibiotics.

* Reprinted with permission from author.