Objectives: To report seven cases of bacillary angiomatosis; to evaluate the most useful diagnostic tools; to analyse the clinical and epidemiological features associated with Bartonella quintana or Bartonella henselae infections.
Design: Clinical, diagnostic and epidemiological evaluation of 37 speciated bacillary angiomatosis cases in the literature, including the seven patients in our study.
Methods: Pathological examination of tissue samples, including Warthin-Starry staining and immunohistology; titre of antibodies to Bartonella sp.; detection of Bartonella sp. in blood and biopsy materials by culture or PCR; and statistical analysis of clinical and epidemiological features associated with B. quintana or B. henselae bacillary angiomatosis cases.
Results: Seven immunocompromised patients (six with AIDS and one patient with acute leukaemia) had bacillary angiomatosis confirmed by histology. B. quintana was cultured in three patients, whereas B. henselae DNA was amplified by PCR in the remaining four patients. Serum from only one patient reacted with Bartonella antigens. Amongst the 14 B. quintana and 23 B. henselae bacillary angiomatosis cases now reported in the literature, lymphadenopathies were significantly more frequent in B. henselae-infected patients, and neurological disorders of the central nervous system in B. quintana-infected patients. Risk factors were contact with cats, and homelessness or poor socioeconomic status in B. henselae and B. quintana bacillary angiomatosis cases, respectively.
Conclusions: Although diagnosis of bacillary angiomatosis often remains solely based upon histology, culture or PCR-based methods are useful for the detection of Bartonella sp., and allow identification of the species involved, which is necessary to further characterize clinical and epidemiological features associated with B. quintana or B. henselae infections.