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Bartonella: The Epidemic You’ve Never Heard Of, Part 3

Flea collar! Stat!

This is the final installment of a three-part series on Bartonella, bacteria that are being linked to a wide variety of ailments – many of them chronic, and some of them life-threatening. In part one, we talked about what Bartonella is, and its growing recognition as a potentially wide-ranging and serious infectious disease. Part two covered the wide array of transmission vectors and illnesses associated with the bacteria. Part three will review the current state of the research and recommendations for the future.

This past April, NC State University hosted the 7th annual international conference on Bartonella as human and animal pathogens. Over the course of the four-day conference, medical professionals and researchers from around the world gave presentations on topics ranging from rates of Bartonella infection in healthy dog and cat populations, to close examinations of the morphology, or structure, of Bartonella inside cells.

A lot of the research presented dealt with the main issue that confronted Ed Breitschwerdt when he first began looking closely at Bartonella – the stealthy nature of the pathogen and its ability to conceal itself within the human body, even while causing repeated illnesses.

Dr. Lesley Ann Fein, a rheumatologist who attended the conference, offered a very nice summary of both the conference and its implications for future research:

Bartonella bacteria are highly evolved, survive in multiple insect vectors and in dessicated flea feces, and enter our bodies in a stealth-like manner, switching off our immune response as it takes residence in our tissues.

“It persists despite aggressive treatment and is clearly a contender for diseases transmitted by blood transfusions. Physicians must be cognizant of the stealth nature of this pathogen and the alarmingly high frequency of seronegativity.”

Ed Breitschwerdt agrees. “We need to understand more about the way this bacteria functions in the human body – how and why it is so successful at hiding and causing persistent infections. We also need to get the word out to the medical community about this pathogen. Just knowing what to look for may end up giving patients with unexplained chronic illnesses better treatment options.

“In my opinion, bartonellosis, caused by the diverse members of the genus Bartonella, may prove to be the most important emerging infectious disease of the next decade.”