Carrion's disease

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Carrion's disease
Classification and external resources
Specialty Infectious disease
ICD-10 A44.0 (ILDS A44.800)
ICD-9-CM 088
DiseasesDB 1249
MeSH D001474

Oroya fever or Carrion's disease is an infectious disease produced by Bartonella bacilliformis infection.

It is named after Daniel Alcides Carrión.[1]


Huaco from Ancash

Carrion's disease has been known since Pre-Inca times. Numerous artistic representations in clay (called "huacos") of the chronic phase have been found in endemic areas. The Spanish chronist, Garcilaso De La Vega described a disease with warts in Spanish troops during the conquest of Inca Empire, in Coaque-Ecuador. For a long time it was thought that the disease was endemic only in Peru and that it had only one phase, the "Peruvian wart" or "verruga peruana"[2]

In 1875 an outbreak, characterized by fever and anemia occurred in the region of construction of the railroad line between Lima and La Oroya.[3] This is the source of the name "oroya fever" sometimes used to describe acute bartonellosis.[4]

In August 1885, Daniel Alcides Carrión, a Peruvian medical student, attempted to inoculate himself with material taken from a verruga lesion of a chronic patient (Carmen Paredes), with the help of a local physician (Evaristo Chavez). After 3 weeks he developed classic symptoms of the acute phase of the disease, thus establishing a common etiology (cause) for these two diseases.[5] He died from bartonellosis on October 5, 1885 and was recognized as a martyr of Peruvian medicine and the term Carrión's Disease is still used today (Peruvian Medicine Day is October 5 in honor to him).

Alberto Barton, a Peruvian microbiologist, identified Bartonella bacilliformis within erythrocytes in 1905, and announced the discovery of the etiologic agent (Barton bacillus) in 1909, which was called Bartonella bacilliformis.

Etiologic agent[edit]

Carrion's disease is caused by Bartonella bacilliformis.[6][7] Recent investigations show that Candidatus Bartonella ancashi may cause verruga peruana, although it may not meet all of Koch's postulates. There is no experimental reproduction of the Peruvian wart in animals and there is little research on the disease's natural spread or impact in native animals, but the disease has been experimentally replicated in Rhesus monkeys.[8]


Sand flies serve as vectors for B. bacilliformis.[6] Carrion's disease is found only in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia.[9] It is endemic in some areas of Peru, where most cases are reported,[6] and is caused by infection with the bacterium Bartonella bacilliformis and transmitted by sandflies of genus Lutzomyia.[10] Children have historically been among the most commonly affected by Carrion's disease. Mortality in the last 50 years of study have ranged from 10-23%, and disproportionately affected children and pregnant women; however, mortality is often due to comorbid infections and indirect complications of the respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, or gastrointestinal systems.[8]

As of December 2015, there is no knowledge of any other vectors or nonhuman reservoirs of the disease.[6]

It is believed that outbreaks of Carrion's disease are influenced to the El Nino Southern Oscillation climate phenomena.[8]

There are few methods of preventing Carrion's disease, due to the prevalence of the sand flies that spread the disease in its range.[6] Milder cases of Carrion's disease often go undiagnosed and unrecognized, and so epidemiological numbers may be low.[11] Infection by Bartonella is not always accompanied by physical symptoms of Carrion's disease.[11]

Clinical signs and symptoms[edit]

The clinical symptoms of bartonellosis are pleomorphic and some patients from endemic areas may be asymptomatic. The two classical clinical presentations are the acute phase and the chronic phase, corresponding to the two different host cell types invaded by the bacterium (red blood cells and endothelial cells). An individual can be affected by either or both phases.[8]

Acute phase: (Carrion's disease or Oroya Fever[6]) also called the hematic phase,[8] the most common findings are fever (usually sustained, but with temperature no greater than 102 °F (39 °C)), pallor, malaise, nonpainful hepatomegaly, jaundice, lymphadenopathy, and splenomegaly. This phase is characterized by severe hemolytic anemia and transient immunosuppression. The case fatality ratios of untreated patients exceeded 40% but reach around 90% when opportunistic infection with Salmonella spp occurs. In a recent study the attack rate was 13.8% (123 cases) and the case-fatality rate was 0.7%.

Other symptoms include headache, muscle aches, general abdominal pain,[6] and cardiac murmurs.[8] In children, symptoms have also been found to include anorexia, nausea, and vomiting.[8]

Most of the mortality of Carrion's disease occurs during the acute phase. Mortality has been estimated as low as just 1% in studies of hospitalized patients, to as high as 88% in untreated, unhospitalized patients.[8] Mortality is often due to subsequent infections due to the weakened immune symptoms and opportunistic pathogen invasion, or consequences of malnutrition due to weight loss in children.[8] In pregnant women with the acute phase, mortality rates are estimated at 40% and rates of spontaneous abortion in another 40%.[8]

chronic phase

Chronic phase: (Verruga Peruana or Peruvian Wart) also called the eruptive phase or tissue phase, in which the patients develop a cutaneus rash produced by a proliferation of endothelial cells and is known as "Peruvian warts" or "verruga peruana". Depending of the size and characteristics of the lesions, there are three types: miliary (1–4 mm), nodular or subdermic and mular (>5mm). Miliary lesions are the most common. The lesions often ulcerate and bleed.[6]

The most common findings are bleeding of verrugas, fever, malaise, arthralgias (joint pain), anorexia, myalgias, pallor, lymphadeopathy, and hepato-splenomegaly.

On microscopic examination, the chronic phase and its rash is produced by angioblastic hyperplasia, or the increased rates and volume of cell growth in the tissues that form blood vessels. This results in a loss of contact between cells and a loss of normal functioning.[8]

Mortality during the chronic phase is very low.[8] The chronic phase is the more common phase, and most commonly effects children.[8]


thin blood film

Diagnosis during the acute phase can be made by obtaining a peripheral blood smear with Giemsa stain, Columbia-blood agar cultures, immunoblot, IFI, and PCR. Diagnosis during the chronic phase can be made using a Warthin-Starry stain of wart biopsy, PCR, and immunoblot.


Because Carrion's disease is often comorbid with Salmonella infections, Chloramphenicol has historically been the treatment of choice.[11]

The drug of choice during the acute phase is Quinolones (such as ciprofloxacin)[12] or Chloramphenicol in adults and Chloramphenicol plus beta lactams in children. Chloramphenicol is typically coupled with penicillin.[8] Chloramphenicol-resistant B. bacilliformis has been observed.[8]

During the eruptive phase, in which chloramphenicol is not useful, azithromycin, erythromycin, and ciprofloxacin have been used successfully for treatment.[8] Rifampin or macrolides are also used to treat both adults and children.[8]

Because of the high rates of comorbid infections and conditions, multiple treatments are often required. These often include the use of corticosteroids for respiratory distress, red blood cell tranfusions for anemia, pericardiectomies for pericardial tamponades, and other standard treatments.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ synd/3112 at Who Named It?
  2. ^ Maguiña, C., 1998. Bartonellosis o Enfermedad de Carrión. A.F.A. Editores Importadores S.A., Lima.
  3. ^ DEVAULT VT (December 1952). "Treatment of bartonellosis with antibiotics". Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 55 (6): 1222–7. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1952.tb22686.x. PMID 13139205. 
  4. ^ Ellis BA, Rotz LD, Leake JA, et al. (August 1999). "An outbreak of acute bartonellosis (Oroya fever) in the Urubamba region of Peru, 1998". Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg. 61 (2): 344–9. PMID 10463692. 
  5. ^ Schultz MG. Daniel Alcides Carrión (photo quiz). Emerg Infect Dis. 2010 Jun. Available from Accessed 26 May 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "Bartonella Infection (Cat Scratch Disease, Trench Fever, and Carrión's Disease)". Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Huarcaya, Erick; Maguiña, Ciro; Torres, Rita; Rupay, Joan; Fuentes, Luis (2004-10-01). "Bartonelosis (Carrion's Disease) in the pediatric population of Peru: an overview and update". Brazilian Journal of Infectious Diseases. 8 (5): 331–339. doi:10.1590/S1413-86702004000500001. ISSN 1413-8670. 
  9. ^ Maguina C, Garcia PJ, Gotuzzo E, Cordero L, Spach DH (September 2001). "Bartonellosis (Carrión's disease) in the modern era". Clin. Infect. Dis. 33 (6): 772–9. doi:10.1086/322614. PMID 11512081. 
  10. ^ Herrer, Arístides (1990). Epidemiología de la verruga peruana. Lima: L. Gonzales-Mugaburu. 
  11. ^ a b c "Bartonellosis - NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders)". NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders). Retrieved 2016-10-17. 
  12. ^ Huarcaya E, Maguiña C, Torres R, Rupay J, Fuentes L (October 2004). "Bartonelosis (Carrion's Disease) in the pediatric population of Peru: an overview and update". Braz J Infect Dis. 8 (5): 331–9. doi:10.1590/S1413-86702004000500001. PMID 15798808. 

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