Bartonelless (overview) A44

Authors: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer, Julian Baur

All authors of this article

Last updated on: 15.06.2022

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Alberto Barton, 1909

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Bacterial infectious disease caused by pathogens of the genus Bartonella, partly endemic in the high mountain valleys of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. Cat scratch disease and bacillary angiomatosis only occur in immunocompromised patients (e.g. AIDS).

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Gram-negative, aerobic rod-shaped bacteria. Family Bartonellaceae; formerly assigned to the order Rickettsiales together with the Rickettsiaceae (Rickettsiae). The species B. quintana and B. henselae were formerly listed under the genus Rochalimaea.

Three major pathogens of human Bartonellosis are known (see Table). Another form, Bartonella elisabethae has been found a few times in patients.

The species B. bacilliformis moves by means of flagella, the species B. quintana and B. henselae by means of pili. Occurs intracellularly within endothelial cells or red blood cells (erythrocytes); also on their cell walls. Thus, bartonellae can also survive outside of host cells. Cultivation on artificial culture medium is possible. PCR tests are necessary for a reliable differentiation of the species.

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Bartonella bacilliformis causes 2 different diseases:

  • Oroya fever as a severe, often septic form of the disease
  • Verruca peruana as a cutaneous progressive form with verrucous papules and knots on hands and face.

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Almost all groups of antibiotics can be used against Bartonella.

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Carrier (Vector)

B. bacilliformis

Oroya fever

Sand fly

Verruga peruana (Peru wart)

B. quintana

Febris quintana (Wolhynian fever)


B. henselae

Cat scratch disease (also caused by

Afipia felis

cats or cat fleas

Peliosis hepatis


Angiomatosis, bacillary


B. elisabethae

Infective endocarditis


B. rochalimae

variant of Oroya fever

sand flies (?)

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The causative agent of Oroya fever was not discovered until 1909 by Alberto Barton, and named after him as "Bartonella bacilliformis". The entire family of Bartonellaceae, which could be separated from the rickettsiae (see below Rickettsioses), was also named after Alberto Barton.

Between 1870 and 1890, an unknown epidemic occurred in Peru, affecting mainly railroad workers. They suffered from high fever, weakness, and anemia ( Oroya fever). The disease spread mainly along the new railroad line between the capital Lima and the town of La Oroya, which gave it its name.

Febris quintana, or Volhynia fever, takes its name from Volhynia, an area on the eastern front of the two world wars, where it was first observed, and at that time also received the name trench fever.


Please ask your physician for a reliable diagnosis. This website is only meant as a reference.


Last updated on: 15.06.2022