Atypical bartonellosis in children: What do we know?

J Paediatr Child Health. 2021 May;57(5):653-658. doi: 10.1111/jpc.15304. Epub 2020 Dec 10.


Aim: To characterise Bartonella infections in a paediatric population requiring hospital admission and review its treatment.

Methods: Longitudinal observational retrospective data analysis of children and adolescents admitted with Bartonella infection at a paediatric tertiary hospital from 2010 to 2019.

Results: We identified 16 cases of bartonellosis, with a mean age of 8.0 ± 4.5 years old, no sex predominance and 14 had contact with cats. Most of the cases occurred in fall and winter. Clinical presentations included osteomyelitis/arthritis (n = 9), hepatosplenic disease (n = 2), lymphadenitis (n = 2), neuroretinitis (n = 2) and encephalitis (n = 1). Clinical diagnosis was confirmed by serology (n = 16) and Bartonella DNA detection in patient's lymph nodes/hepatic lesion (n = 3). Therapeutic approach varied according to the clinical presentation: azithromycin in lymphadenitis, rifampicin plus ciprofloxacin in hepatosplenic disease, rifampicin and doxycycline in neuroretinitis, ceftriaxone in encephalitis and azithromycin, cotrimoxazole or rifampicin plus azithromycin, cefuroxime, ciprofloxacin or doxycycline in osteomyelitis/arthritis. Immunodeficiency was excluded in seven patients. Seven patients' cats were screened by veterinarians and treated when infected (n = 5).

Conclusions: In these clinical presentations, where other infections may be involved, a high index of suspicion is necessary, with emphasis on the epidemiological context. The association of systemic forms with immunodeficiency did not occur in our study. The lack of recommendations for treatment of atypical infection makes the approach of these cases a challenge. Randomised control studies are essential to define the best approach in each case.

Keywords: Bartonella infection; encephalitis; fever of unknown origin; lymphadenitis; osteomyelitis; retinitis.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Bartonella Infections* / diagnosis
  • Bartonella Infections* / drug therapy
  • Bartonella Infections* / epidemiology
  • Bartonella henselae*
  • Cats
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Osteomyelitis* / diagnosis
  • Osteomyelitis* / drug therapy
  • Osteomyelitis* / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies