Current knowledge of Bartonella species

Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 1997 Jul;16(7):487-506. doi: 10.1007/BF01708232.


Bartonella species are now considered emerging pathogens. Of the 11 currently recognized species, four have been implicated in human disease, although only two have been encountered in Europe. Bartonella quintana infections are now being diagnosed among the urban homeless and deprived, manifesting as trench fever, and Bartonella henselae has been shown to be the causative agent of cat scratch disease. Both species also cause a variety of HIV-associated infections, including bacillary anglomatosis. However, perhaps the most significant presentation of bartonellae infection is culture-negative endocarditis. The epidemiologies of Bartonella infections are poorly understood; most Bartonella henselae infections are probably acquired from infected cats, either directly by contact with a cat or indirectly via fleas. No animal reservoir has been implicated for Bartonella quintana; however, infection can be transmitted via the human body louse. Diagnosis of Bartonella infections can be made using histological or microbiological methods. The demonstration of specific antibodies may be useful in some instances, although certainly not in all. Cultivation of Bartonella is difficult, as the bacteria are extremely fastidious. Polymerase chain reaction-based or immunological methods for the detection of bartonella in infected tissues have proven useful. Clinical relapse is often associated with Bartonella infections despite a wide range of prescribed regimens. Only aminoglycosides display in vitro bactericidal activity against intracellular Bartonella species; therefore, they are recommended for treatment of Bartonella infections.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / microbiology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bartonella / classification
  • Bartonella / physiology*
  • Bartonella Infections* / diagnosis
  • Bartonella Infections* / drug therapy
  • Bartonella Infections* / epidemiology
  • Bartonella Infections* / microbiology
  • Cat-Scratch Disease / microbiology
  • Cats
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Insect Vectors / microbiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents