Lyme Coinfection Series-Bartonella
By Beth Aust, RN, Holistic Health Coach
This is a continuation of our Lyme and coinfection series to help educate you.
“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace. “ -Confucius
Stats & Facts:
Bartonella (Bartonellosis) is one of the most common types of bacteria in the world. There are many species of Bartonella, and about half of the 37 known species can cause disease in humans.
The CDC estimates that more than 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year in the US. Of these infections, an unknown number will result in a chronic, difficult-to-treat illness.
Out of the 15 or so Bartonella species that can cause disease in humans, you may have heard of Cat Scratch Fever. B. henselae is the causative agent of Bartonellosis or cat scratch disease/fever.
B. henselae or "cat scratch disease" is reported in approximately twenty thousand cases per year in the United States. Contrary to popular belief, Bartonella is not just transmitted via cats. It is known to be transmitted by a vector, animal bites, scratches, or even needle sticks.
Vectors are insects or things like insects that carry disease. Vectors can include fleas, lice, ticks, biting flies, and spiders. They are everywhere around us, so we do not have a great line of defense against them.
Although it has not been proven that Bartonella is transmitted by ticks, we see Bartonella so frequently as a co-infector with chronic Lyme Disease, that it is extremely likely that this is the case.
Symptoms of Bartonella:
Distinguishing Lyme from Bartonella can be difficult as many of their symptoms overlap. For example, joint pain and joint swelling are common in Lyme disease, but you can see the same symptoms with Bartonella.
Early signs of Bartonella may include fever, headache, poor appetite, swollen glands, and an unusual, streaked rash that may resemble “stretch marks,” although this may present differently.
Bartonella can cause a lot of cognitive dysfunction. Some patients with Bartonella report more neurological symptoms and likely have sought out a visit with a neurologist. Some common cognitive symptoms may include numbness in extremities, memory loss, balance problems, headaches, unsteady gait, and tremors. Even mood swings, depression and anxiety, and significant cognitive difficulties like processing can be caused by the inflammatory process in the brain that is driven by Bartonella.
Many patients have seen numerous doctors, and have been told nothing is wrong, or that what they are experiencing is “in their head.” Being a nurse here at IMOFCNY, we hear this A LOT. However, we know something could potentially be wrong, and why our providers focus on testing, clinical symptoms, and treatment.
Testing & Diagnosis:
Bartonella disease is just one of many Lyme co-infections. There are many Lyme patients who have Bartonella, and there may be patients who do not have Lyme disease but do have Bartonella. Therefore, here at IM of CNY our providers will not only order testing for Lyme disease but for additional coinfections as well.
Testing for Lyme and coinfections including Bartonella can also be a challenge. The testing available in commercial labs is called antibody testing. There are about 2 dozen strains in existence, but most of these labs only test for one, or possibly 2 strains of Bartonella.
Did you know Bartonella is called a “stealth infection?” Bartonella has a way of “hiding” from your body so your body does not make antibodies, and may not be circulating in your bloodstream, which makes Lyme and coinfections like Bartonella difficult to test for. Therefore, false-negative results do occur. There are a few specialty labs that offer more comprehensive testing that the IM of CNY providers utilizes to help along with clinical symptoms in making a diagnosis to then determine the treatment needed for our patients.
Living with Bartonella, Lyme, or other coinfections:
Many patients who are diagnosed with Lyme disease or co-infectors may not even remember a bite or may have been bitten 20 years ago, and they may not notice symptoms for years. In fact, they may never develop symptoms depending on the strength of their immune system. We, unfortunately, have seen chronically ill patients suffer from symptoms that are driven by infection, toxins, and lifestyle patterns.
If a person has a compromised immune system, has other associated infections, is eating a poor diet, has poor sleep, and is under stress, their bodies can be made more vulnerable to manifesting signs and symptoms of disease, and this can lead to chronic illness.
We live in a toxic world, and are bombarded daily by pesticides, heavy metals, plastics, etc. that can compromise our immunity and our cells, which can then create the “perfect storm.”
With proper testing and treatment, and in the setting of following a holistic lifestyle including a nourishing diet, restful sleep, avoidance of toxins, and stress management techniques, one has a better chance of getting well again. Having an integratively minded health care practitioner who is patient, and listens to your concerns and ideas, provides information and education, and embraces a partnership for your wellness, can help one to achieve symptom control and wellness.
At IM of CNY, we have Lyme- (and coinfection-) literate providers who will meet with you, listen to you, and work with you in creating a wellness plan specifically for you based on testing and clinical presentation, in a team approach, together.
Current patients of IM of CNY are encouraged to discuss with their provider whether or not they should have testing for Bartonella.
Not yet a patient of IM of CNY? We would love to have you!
Call us at 315-741-5774 or visit our website for more information.
This is part of our Lyme Disease and Coinfection series; please be sure to check out our blog, or subscribe to our newsletter for more of the series.