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Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Bacteria
Phylum: Pseudomonadota
Class: Alphaproteobacteria
Order: Hyphomicrobiales
Family: Bartonellaceae
Gieszczykiewicz 1939 (Approved Lists 1980)
Genus: Bartonella
Strong et al. 1915 (Approved Lists 1980)
  • Bartonia Strong et al. 1913
  • Grahamella (ex Brumpt 1911) Ristic and Kreier 1984
  • Rochalimaea (Macchiavello 1947) Krieg 1961

Bartonella is a genus of Gram-negative bacteria. It is the only genus in the family Bartonellaceae.[2][3] Facultative intracellular parasites, Bartonella species can infect healthy people, but are considered especially important as opportunistic pathogens.[4] Bartonella species are transmitted by vectors such as ticks, fleas, sand flies, and mosquitoes. At least eight Bartonella species or subspecies are known to infect humans.[5]

Bartonella henselae is the organism responsible for cat scratch disease.


Bartonella species have been infecting humans for thousands of years, as demonstrated by Bartonella quintana DNA in a 4000-year-old tooth.[6] The genus is named for Alberto Leonardo Barton Thompson (1871–October 26, 1950), a Peruvian scientist.[7]

Infection cycle[edit]

The currently accepted model explaining the infection cycle holds that the transmitting vectors are blood-sucking arthropods and the reservoir hosts are mammals. Immediately after infection, the bacteria colonize a primary niche, the endothelial cells. Every five days, some of the Bartonella bacteria in the endothelial cells are released into the blood stream, where they infect erythrocytes. The bacteria then invade a phagosomal membrane inside the erythrocytes, where they multiply until they reach a critical population density. At this point, they simply wait until they are taken up with the erythrocytes by a blood-sucking arthropod.[citation needed]

Though some studies have found "no definitive evidence of transmission by a tick to a vertebrate host,"[8][9] Bartonella species are well-known to be transmissible to both animals and humans through various other vectors, such as fleas, lice, and sand flies.[10] Recent studies have shown a strong correlation between tick exposure and bartonellosis,[10][11] including human bartonellosis. Bartonella bacteria are associated with cat-scratch disease, but a study in 2010 concluded, "Clinicians should be aware that ... a history of an animal scratch or bite is not necessary for disease transmission."[12] All current Bartonella species identified in canines are human pathogens.[13]


Bartonella infections are remarkable in the wide range of symptoms they can produce. The course of the diseases (acute or chronic) and the underlying pathologies are highly variable.[14]

Bartonella pathophysiology in humans
Species Human reservoir or
incidental host?
Pathophysiology Distribution
B. bacilliformis Reservoir Causes Carrion's disease (Oroya fever, Verruga peruana) Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia
B. quintana Reservoir Japanese macaque Causes trench fever, bacillary angiomatosis, and endocarditis Worldwide
B. clarridgeiae Incidental Domestic cat Cat scratch disease
B. elizabethae Incidental Rat Endocarditis
B. grahamii Incidental Mouse Endocarditis and neuroretinitis
B. henselae Incidental Domestic cat Cat scratch disease, bacillary angiomatosis, peliosis hepatis, endocarditis, bacteremia with fever, neuroretinitis, meningitis, encephalitis Worldwide
B. koehlerae Incidental Domestic cat
B. naantaliensis Reservoir Myotis daubentonii
B. vinsonii Incidental Mouse, dog, domestic cat Endocarditis, bacteremia
B. washoensis Incidental Squirrel Myocarditis
B. rochalimae Incidental Unknown Carrion's disease-like symptoms


Treatment is dependent on which species or strain of Bartonella is found in a given patient. While Bartonella species are susceptible to a number of standard antibiotics in vitromacrolides and tetracycline, for example—the efficacy of antibiotic treatment in immunocompetent individuals is uncertain.[14] Immunocompromised patients should be treated with antibiotics because they are particularly susceptible to systemic disease and bacteremia. Drugs of particular effectiveness include trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, gentamicin, ciprofloxacin, and rifampin; B. henselae is generally resistant to penicillin, amoxicillin, and nafcillin.[14]


Homeless intravenous drug users are at high risk for Bartonella infections, particularly B. elizabethae. B. elizabethae seropositivity rates in this population range from 12.5% in Los Angeles,[19] to 33% in Baltimore, Maryland,[20] 46% in New York City,[21] and 39% in Sweden.[22]


The currently accepted taxonomy is based on the List of Prokaryotic names with Standing in Nomenclature (LPSN).[1] The phylogeny is based on whole-genome analysis.[23]


Bartonella apis

Bartonella ancashensis

Bartonella bacilliformis

Bartonella schoenbuchensis

Bartonella bovis

Bartonella rochalimae

Bartonella clarridgeiae

Bartonella doshiae

Bartonella senegalensis

Bartonella koehlerae

Bartonella henselae

Bartonella grahamii

Bartonella elizabethae

Bartonella tribocorum

Bartonella birtlesii

Bartonella florencae

Bartonella alsatica

Bartonella rattaustraliani

Bartonella vinsonii




  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "List of Prokaryotic Names with Standing in Nomenclature". Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  2. ^ Brenner, D. J.; O'Connor, S. P.; Winkler, H. H.; Steigerwalt, A. G. (1993). "Proposals To Unify the Genera Bartonella and Rochalimaea, with Descriptions of Bartonella quintana comb. nov., Bartonella vinsonii comb. nov., Bartonella henselae comb. nov., and Bartonella elizabethae comb. nov., and To Remove the Family Bartonellaceae from the Order Rickettsiales". International Journal of Systematic Bacteriology. 43 (4): 777–786. doi:10.1099/00207713-43-4-777. ISSN 0020-7713. PMID 8240958.
  3. ^ Peters, D.; R. Wigand (1955). "Bartonellaceae". Bacteriol. Rev. 19 (3): 150–159. doi:10.1128/MMBR.19.3.150-159.1955. PMC 180822. PMID 13260099.
  4. ^ Walker DH (1996). "Rickettsiae". In Baron S; et al. (eds.). Rickettsiae. In: Barron's Medical Microbiology (4th ed.). Univ of Texas Medical Branch. ISBN 978-0-9631172-1-2.
  5. ^ Chomel BB, Boulouis HJ (2005). "Zoonoses dues aux bactéries du genre Bartonella: nouveaux réservoirs? nouveaux vecteurs?" [Zoonotic diseases caused by bacteria of the genus Bartonella: new reservoirs? new vectors?] (PDF). Bull. Acad. Natl. Med. (in French). 189 (3): 465–77, discussion 477–80. PMID 16149211.
  6. ^ Drancourt M, Tran-Hung L, Courtin J, Lumley H, Raoult D (2005). "Bartonella quintana in a 4000-year-old human tooth". J. Infect. Dis. 191 (4): 607–11. doi:10.1086/427041. PMID 15655785.
  7. ^ "etymologia: Bartonella henselae". Emerging Infectious Diseases. 14 (6): 980. June 2008. doi:10.3201/eid1406.080980. ISSN 1080-6040. PMC 2600307.
  8. ^ Angelakis E, Billeter SA, Breitschwerdt EB, Chomel BB, Raoult D (March 2010). "Potential for tick-borne bartonellosis". Emerg Infect Dis. 16 (3): 385–91. doi:10.3201/eid1603.091685. PMC 3322042. PMID 20202411.
  9. ^ Telford SR III; Wormser GP (March 2010). "Bartonella spp. transmission by ticks not established". Emerg Infect Dis. 16 (3): 379–84. doi:10.3201/eid1603.090443. PMC 3322007. PMID 20202410.
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  12. ^ Mosbacher M, Elliott SP, Shehab Z, Pinnas JL, Klotz JH, Klotz SA (Sep–Oct 2010). "Cat scratch disease and arthropod vectors: more to it than a scratch?". J Am Board Fam Med. 23 (5): 685–6. doi:10.3122/jabfm.2010.05.100025. PMID 20823366.
  13. ^ Chomel BB, Boulouis HJ, Maruyama S, Breitschwerdt EB (Mar 2006). "Bartonella spp. in pets and effect on human health". Emerg Infect Dis. 12 (3): 389–94. doi:10.3201/eid1203.050931. PMC 3291446. PMID 16704774.
  14. ^ a b c d Rolain JM, Brouqui P, Koehler JE, Maguina C, Dolan MJ, Raoult D (2004). "Recommendations for treatment of human infections caused by Bartonella species". Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 48 (6): 1921–33. doi:10.1128/AAC.48.6.1921-1933.2004. PMC 415619. PMID 15155180.
  15. ^ Zeaiter Z, Liang Z, Raoult D (2002). "Genetic classification and differentiation of Bartonella species based on comparison of partial ftsZ gene sequences". J. Clin. Microbiol. 40 (10): 3641–7. doi:10.1128/JCM.40.10.3641-3647.2002. PMC 130884. PMID 12354859.
  16. ^ Jacomo V, Kelly PJ, Raoult D (2002). "Natural history of Bartonella infections (an exception to Koch's postulate)". Clin. Diagn. Lab. Immunol. 9 (1): 8–18. doi:10.1128/CDLI.9.1.8-18.2002. PMC 119901. PMID 11777823. Archived from the original on 2005-05-26.
  17. ^ Maco V, Maguiña C, Tirado A, Maco V, Vidal JE (2004). "Carrion's disease (Bartonellosis bacilliformis) confirmed by histopathology in the High Forest of Peru". Rev. Inst. Med. Trop. Sao Paulo. 46 (3): 171–4. doi:10.1590/S0036-46652004000300010. PMID 15286824.
  18. ^ Pulliainen, Arto T.; Lilley, Thomas M.; Vesterinen, Eero J.; Veikkolainen, Ville (2014). "Bats as Reservoir Hosts of Human Bacterial Pathogen, Bartonella mayotimonensis - Volume 20, Number 6—June 2014 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC". Emerging Infectious Diseases. 20 (6): 960–7. doi:10.3201/eid2006.130956. PMC 4036794. PMID 24856523.
  19. ^ Smith HM, Reporter R, Rood MP, et al. (2002). "Prevalence study of antibody to ratborne pathogens and other agents among patients using a free clinic in downtown Los Angeles". J. Infect. Dis. 186 (11): 1673–6. doi:10.1086/345377. PMID 12447746.
  20. ^ Comer JA, Flynn C, Regnery RL, Vlahov D, Childs JE (1996). "Antibodies to Bartonella species in inner-city intravenous drug users in Baltimore, Md". Arch. Intern. Med. 156 (21): 2491–5. doi:10.1001/archinte.156.21.2491. PMID 8944742.
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