Before 1990, no Bartonella infections had been identified in the U.S. The new discovery is the sixth species identified that can infect humans, said Jane Koehler, MD, professor of infectious diseases at UCSF and senior author on the new paper.
Koehler encountered her first patient infected with Bartonella in 1987 during her first week of training in infectious diseases at the AIDS Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center.
“The bacteria were eating away a bone in the arm of an AIDS patient – for months,” Koehler recalls. “They can cause extremely painful lesions and tumors of blood vessels on the skin of immunocompromised patients. But when I saw this patient, this type of infection had never been seen at UCSF, and the bacterium causing the infection was unknown.”
Koehler’s group went on to discover that two different Bartonella species can cause these disfiguring and potentially fatal infections in AIDS patients. Identification of the bacteria required laboratory studies of some of the microbes’ DNA sequences.
She was surprised to find that one of the microbes that causes severe infections in AIDS patients in the U.S was the same species that caused trench fever in WWI soldiers fighting in Europe 80 years before. The work was published in “The New England Journal of Medicine” in 1992.
Several years later, her team discovered that the Bartonella henselae bacterium causes cat scratch disease, an infection that causes swollen lymph nodes and fever after a cat scratches its owner or an unlucky visitor. They were again surprised to find that this microbe is the second Bartonella species to cause infection in AIDS patients.
Like trench fever, cat scratch disease had been described in the early 1900s, but no one knew what bacterium caused cat scratch disease until t
Source:University of California - San Francisco