Detection of Bartonella henselae DNA by two different PCR assays and determination of the genotypes of strains involved in histologically defined cat scratch disease

J Clin Microbiol. 1999 Apr;37(4):993-7. doi: 10.1128/JCM.37.4.993-997.1999.


Cat scratch disease (CSD) is a common cause of subacute regional lymphadenopathy, not only in children but also in adults. Serological and molecular studies demonstrated that Bartonella henselae is the etiologic agent in most cases of CSD. Amplification of B. henselae DNA in affected tissue and detection of antibodies to B. henselae are the two mainstays in the laboratory diagnosis of CSD. We designed a retrospective study and investigated formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded lymph nodes from 60 patients (25 female, 35 male) with histologically suspected CSD by PCR amplification. The sensitivities of two different PCR assays were compared. The first primer pair amplified a 296-bp fragment of the 16S rRNA gene in 36 of the 60 samples, corresponding to a sensitivity of 60%. The second primer pair amplified a 414-bp fragment of the htrA gene in 26 of the 60 lymph nodes, corresponding to a sensitivity of 43.3%. Bartonella DNA could be detected in a total of 39 (65%) of the 60 lymph nodes investigated. However, histopathologic findings are typical but not specific for CSD and cannot be considered as a "gold standard" for diagnosis of CSD. The sensitivity of the PCR assays increased from 65 to 87% if two criteria (histology and serology) were used in combination for diagnosis of CSD. Two genotypes (I and II) of B. henselae are described as being involved in CSD. Genotype I was found in 23 (59%) and genotype II was found in 9 (23%) of the 39 PCR-positive lymph nodes. Seven (18%) lymph nodes were negative in both type-specific PCR assays. Thirty (50%) of our 60 patients were younger than 20 years old (15 were younger than 10 years), 20 (33%) were between 21 and 40 years old, and 10 (17%) patients were between 41 and 84 years old. Our data suggest that detection of Bartonella DNA in patients' samples might confirm the histologically suspected diagnosis of CSD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Bartonella henselae / genetics*
  • Bartonella henselae / immunology
  • Bartonella henselae / isolation & purification*
  • Base Sequence
  • Cat-Scratch Disease / diagnosis*
  • Cat-Scratch Disease / immunology
  • Cat-Scratch Disease / microbiology*
  • Cats
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics*
  • DNA, Bacterial / isolation & purification*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Infant
  • Lymph Nodes / microbiology
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M