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Bartonella Infection Associated with Rheumatoid Illnesses in Humans

A bacterium historically associated with cat scratch fever and transmitted predominately by fleas may also play a role in human rheumatoid illnesses such as arthritis, according to new research from North Carolina State University.

Bartonella is a bacterium that is maintained in nature by fleas, ticks and other biting insects. It can be transmitted to humans both by these parasites as well as by bites or scratches from infected cats and dogs. The most commonly known Bartonella-related illness is cat scratch disease, caused by B. henselae, a species of Bartonella that can be carried in a cat’s blood for months to years.

In collaboration with Dr. Robert Mozayeni, a rheumatologist based in Maryland, and Dr. Ricardo Maggi, a research assistant professor at NC State, Dr. Ed Breitschwerdt, professor of internal medicine at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and adjunct professor of medicine at Duke University, tested blood samples from 296 patients for evidence of Bartonella infection. The patients had previously been diagnosed with conditions ranging from Lyme disease to arthritis to chronic fatigue. Since rheumatic symptoms have sometimes been reported following cat scratch disease, the researchers wanted to see if these patients tested positive for B. henselae.

Of the 296 patients, 62 percent had Bartonella antibodies, which supported prior exposure to these bacteria. Bacterial DNA was found in 41 percent of patient samples, allowing investigators to narrow the species of Bartonella present, with B. henselae, B. kohlerae and B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii the most prevalent. The study appears in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“Based upon this one study we can’t definitively say that a subset of rheumatoid illnesses have an infectious origin,” Breitschwerdt says. “However, our results thus far do implicate Bartonella as a factor in at least some cases. If the link between Bartonella and rheumatoid illnesses is valid, it may also open up more directed treatment options for patients with rheumatoid illnesses.”


Note to editors:  Abstract of the paper follows.

“Bartonella spp. Bacteremia and Rheumatic Symptoms in Patients from Lyme Disease–endemic Region”

Authors: Ricardo G. Maggi, Elizabeth L. Pultorak, Barbara C. Heggarty, Julie M. Bradley, Maria Correa, Ed Breitschwerdt, North Carolina State University; B. Robert Mozayeni, Translational Medicine Group, PC, Maryland

Published: Online ahead of print in Emerging Infectious Diseases


Bartonella spp. infection has been reported in association with an expanding spectrum of symptoms and lesions. Among 296 patients examined by a rheumatologist, prevalence of antibodies against Bartonella henselae, B. koehlerae, or B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii (185 [62%]) and Bartonella spp. bacteremia (122 [41.1%]) was high. Conditions diagnosed before referral included Lyme disease (46.6%), arthralgia/arthritis (20.6%), chronic fatigue (19.6%), and fibromyalgia (6.1%). B. henselae bacteremia was significantly associated with prior referral to a neurologist, most often for blurred vision, subcortical neurologic deficits, or numbness in the extremities, whereas B. koehlerae bacteremia was associated with examination by an infectious disease physician. This cross-sectional study cannot establish a causal link between Bartonella spp. infection and the high frequency of neurologic symptoms, myalgia, joint pain, or progressive arthropathy in this population; however, the contribution of Bartonella spp. infection, if any, to these symptoms should be systematically investigated.

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  1. The link is quite true, infection with Bartonella can cause arthritis, myalgia, uveitis, brain inflammation, culture negative endocarditis, bacteremia, heart attacks, stroke, atherosclerosis, anemia, sore throat, encephalitis, ventricular hypertrophy.

  2. i was bit by one of my cats on july last year on my fingers .Then took several antibiotics because it started with swelling and hot aches and now even 12 months later i still have arthritic pain which reduces my daily mobility and sleep at night. some days i feel pretty exhausted and nodules have appeared on my fingers. Despite all this i have found no doctor in Greece relating my symptoms to the cat bite although it all started that day. Noone has made a diagnosis still.I am 33y and feel hopeless..

    1. Bites or scratch from cats can infect you with Bartonella henselae, the causative agent of cat scratch fever. If not treated promptly the bacterium enter the bloodstream causing bacteremia, after that it can be systemic and chronic infection difficult to treat and cure. 99% of MDs do not know Bartonella, how to make diagnosis and how to treat the infection. If not treated it can invade the red blood cells, causing anemia. It is gram negative intracellular pathogen.
      Using antibiotics you can save your life and survive otherwise it is deadly bacterium. Intracellular and gram negative antibiotics are very good, also broad spectrum antibiotics are good.
      1) Amoxicillin
      2) Ciprofloxacin
      3) Azithromycin
      4) Doxycycline
      5) Gentamicin
      Also for Uveitis you can use Rifampin + Doxycycline.

  3. I was bit by my cat on 9/29, after a shot and antibiotics for 10 days, the swelling in my finger persists, hot, aches, throbs at night. Now more than 6 weeks later, I have the same issues in my ankles, knees and shoulders. The Doctor here says it’s my age of 65, going to an arthritis specialist next month but I think it’s more than RA as it started after the cat bite.
    Please help, Naproxon does not even help now.p

  4. I have Lyme, bartonella , and babesia. I took antibiotics and cyst busters for 15 months. I started going to a dr. In King’s Mt and he is a miracle worker. Way ahead of Modern medicine.

    1. Hi Bobby,
      Glad to hear you’re getting better! May I ask for the name of the doctor please? Is it Chinese medicine?

      Take care

      1. Alex
        I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia many years ago. Mostly same symptoms. Could you give me info on your Dr.? Also info on your treatment.

    2. Bobby,
      My wife has been dealing with the same infections that you had. What did your medical treatment consist of. She has tried all most everything.

    3. So glad you have found a miracle worker. Please share with me your doctor’s info and your treatment. I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia many years ago. I have many of the same symptoms. This has left my quality of life poor. I sure could use a MIRACLE WORKER. DESPERATELY SEEKING HELP

      1. I found your on NC state news website. My son was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 6 months ago and we think the doctors miss diagnosed him. He was scratched my a cat and we are thinking it is Bartonella disease. Did you find that Miracle Worker Doctor? Can you share his name and location.

    4. Hello. My name is Dan, and I recently connected my joint inflammation, excessive joint popping, narrowing knee space, and rheummatoid like conditions to my bartonella infection. I was wondering, who your doctor is, how he treated you, and how much did your joint health bounce back? Would appreciate all the info you can offer. Thank you.

  5. I was diagnosed with Bartonella in year 2012, shortly after my retired assistance dog died from Lyme D and co-infections (vet would not check for Bartonella). My symptom list started in year 2000 when I was doing k9 search and rescue training with my dog but although I had visited many doctors looking for help I was not diagnosed until year 2012. Much damage had already been done: my vision, my hearing-tinnitus, migraines, anxiety, extreme fatigue, neuropathy, asthma like symptoms, irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, thermo irregularities, multiple joint flares which have progressed to nodules on my hands, fingers and toe joints–list goes on and on. I have been on oral antibiotics for 3 years now. Some of the symptoms have been alleviated but still have most and if I go off the antibiotics for more than a few weeks, all symptoms return. Its a nightmare; Bartonella is REAL and is a health and life wrecker.

  6. I had cat scratch fever about 5 years the pain in all my joints is almost unbearable. Now I also sleep every moment I can including being late for work. I also haven’t been able to loose weight whether I diet and exercise or not.

    1. I expérience the same thing. After a tough battle against bartonella 4 years ago. Pain in my knees and ankles. Especially in the morning wher i first walk

    2. Be aware that you could be on the wrong antibiotics that are only working as an anti-inflammatory, you need to start the right treatment right away.
      Look for Dr. Mozayeni in Maryland, he has phone consultations I’m his patient.
      Join the group Beating Bartonella on Facebook. Look for
      Good luck, this disease it’s a nightmare but there’s hope.

  7. I was hospitalized for Cat Scratch fever and have never been the same since. My joints have been in constant pain . Now 7 years later I have arthritis through out my body. I truley believe it is due to the cat scratch fever.

    1. I expérience thé same…4 years after a tough battle against bartonella infection .My knees and ankles especially.