Koehler’s research group found that all pet cats of AIDS patients infected by B. henselae also had the infection in their blood. In fact, about 41 percent of all the pet cats they tested in the San Francisco area had this bacterium in their blood. This work, detailed in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” in 1994, sounded the alarm that pet cats were often infected with a microbe that could be transmitted to their owners through a scratch.
These earlier investigations taught the researchers several important lessons: new diseases and new bacteria infecting humans are still being discovered, and it is important to carefully investigate the genetic make-up of all bacteria that appear in any new or unusual infection. This kind of sleuthing allowed the researchers to discover the new organism, Bartonella rochalimae.
Koehler considers the on-going research and discovery crucial to treating patients and preventing disease.
“When a patient has a high and persistent fever, we need to come up with the correct diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible – particularly for those with a weakened immune system, who can die from the infection,” she says. “Also, different Bartonella species respond to different drugs, so it is essential to explore further and pinpoint which one is involved.”
The cat scratch bacteria and the one that brought down soldiers and AIDS patients can be reined in with the same antibiotic, but the Peruvian microbe is usually countered with different antibiotics, Koehler says. Also, caregivers, and medical staff need to know about the different species, so, for example, AIDS patients are cautioned about the dangers of cat scratches and exposure to body lice. Medical staff should know to look for Bartonella infections if someone with a persistent, unexplained hi
Source:University of California - San Francisco