Bartonellosis doesn’t refer to one specific disorder, but rather a collection of diseases caused by the various members of the Bartonella strain of bacteria. These bacteria are primarily transmitted to humans and animals by vectors, which include ticks, lice, fleas, and flies. People can also catch the disease through previously infected domesticated or wild animals. The most common form a Bartonella infection takes is known as cat scratch fever, a name obviously derived from the method of contraction. But there is also a link between bartonellosis and Lyme disease, as the former is a prominent co-infection of the latter. So what exactly are the symptoms of bartonellosis, and how is the infection tested and treated for? And is there a surefire way to identify the disease?
Lyme co-infections are a serious problem for both patients and doctors alike. The subject of chronic Lyme disease is already a thorny one. Much of the mainstream medical community doesn’t fully acknowledge its existence, despite thousands upon thousands of cases being reported across the world. Acute Lyme is an accepted disease; caught from black-legged ticks, also called deer ticks, the infection causes flu-like symptoms in patients and can be cleared up with antibiotics. However, if this window is missed, the disease can evolve (or devolve) into chronic Lyme. Chronic Lyme comes complete with a whole host of debilitating symptoms, which vary wildly depending on the patient. These symptoms include joint pain and aches, a sense of constant fatigue, muscular-skeletal issues, neurological complications, and potentially cardiac problems.
The compromised immune system of Lyme patients also allows any potential co-infections to run rampant. Because there is generalized apathy toward chronic Lyme, medical professionals rarely focus on co-infections. These infections, contracted at the same time as the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that causes Lyme, can underpin the dominant Lyme infection, or cause new symptoms in their own right. Bartonellosis is one such prominent co-infection, which often compounds the suffering of Lyme patients. Much like Lyme, the presence and severity of symptoms can vary depending on the patient. On its own, the infection can be quite mild and transitory. However, when paired with Lyme, it can cause severe, often lasting implications for a patient’s long-term health.
Bartonellosis can present as a mild infection or produce a spectrum of symptoms that affect the whole body. It often causes the same type of non-specific issues that Lyme disease causes, making it very difficult to tell the two apart, especially in the early stages. However, bartonellosis is suspected when neurological symptoms are far more pronounced than any other symptoms affecting the patient. Obviously, any sort of neurological problem can be extremely severe, which is why this co-infection is particularly troubling. The three most prominent forms of bartonellosis are commonly known as cat scratch fever, Carrión’s disease, and trench fever. All three are traditionally accompanied by fever, with various other symptoms depending on the strain of the disorder a patient has. When paired with Lyme disease, patients can be prone to developing encephalopathy, a brain disorder that produces headaches, seizures, and cognitive dysfunction.
Because the disease is so dangerous, a specific test for bartonellosis is obviously critical, especially in suspected Lyme patients. Unfortunately, bartonellosis is traditionally difficult to diagnose, with no exact procedure existing for it. False negatives from blood tests are often returned, leading to many undiagnosed or misdiagnosed cases. A patient might have to be tested numerous times, as the tiny bacteria make their home within cells and are often tough to test for. This detection difficulty, coupled with the fact that the bacteria is quite resistant to antibiotic treatment, makes the disease potentially problematic to treat effectively.
Infectolab Americas are Lyme specialists who have been confronting the disease for some time. They know all too well how co-infections can complicate and compound symptoms, and are committed to providing their patients with a full diagnosis. They recently aided in the development of a new ELISpot test, which is specifically outfitted to catch prominent Lyme co-infections in one go. The ELISpot has been used in the diagnosis of Lyme for years, but all too often returns false negatives. This is because the interplay between the infection and inflammation symptoms of Lyme disease is particularly complex. The new ELISpot fixes this flaw by testing for memory T-cells as well as attacking ones. T-cells are components of our immune system. Those concerned with memory are created after an infection is fought off, to protect the body if it happens to return. By testing for their presence, doctors are better able to pinpoint the stage of the disease and treat accordingly.
The new ELISpot also tests for the presence of antigens related to bartonellosis. This makes for an effective and accurate test, allowing doctors to react rapidly if the disease is present. Lyme disease and its co-infections can be frustratingly vague when it comes to diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment. The new ELISpot helps to level the playing field a little, aiding medical professionals with concrete data. The progression of Lyme, as well as the absence or presence of various co-infections, can be the difference between successful treatment or missed opportunity for Lyme disease patients all over the world.