5 Bartonella Myths You Should Know About

Bartonella, the sneaky and elusive bacteria that causes a range of symptoms in humans, is like a master of disguise that can mimic other illnesses and hide from the immune system. But the fight against this stealthy invader is not lost! In this blog, we will dive into this vector-borne infection and bust five common myths.


Vector-Borne Infection

What is Bartonella?

Bartonella is a type of bacteria that can cause various infections in humans and animals – causing a condition known as bartonellosis. There are more than 20 documented species of Bartonella, with upwards of 14 species infecting humans. Many of the Bartonella species aren’t always identifiable through testing. Still, some more common types can infect humans, including: [1]

  • Bartonella henselae: A bacterial infection primarily associated with cat scratch disease that occurs after a scratch or bite from an infected cat. However, fleas and ticks may also play a role in transmission.[2]
  • Bartonella quintana: A type of bacteria that is typically transmitted through the bite of infected body lice, causing trench fever in humans.[3]
  • Bartonella bacilliformis: A rare bacterial infection associated with Carrion’s disease, typically found in the Andrea regions of South America. [4]

Bartonella is a gram-negative bacteria – meaning it has two cell walls – that infect human cells, making it exceptionally skilled at hiding from our immune system and disrupting our normal cellular function.[5]


Vector-Borne Infection

How is Bartonella transmitted?

Bartonella infections (Vector-Borne Infection) are transmitted to humans through various means. Typically, if you are exposed to Bartonella, it’s through transmission from a domestic animal, such as cats, dogs, horses, or cattle. This transmission type is far more common than people think, with an estimated 50 – 75 percent of feral cats and upwards of 50% of ill dogs carrying Bartonella, even if they appear completely healthy.[6]

In addition to direct contact with infected animals, Bartonella: Vector-Borne Infection can also be spread by several vector insects, including: [7]

  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Lice
  • Sandflies
  • Mites
  • Spiders
  • Bed Bugs

Research has substantiated the prevalence of Bartonella in vector insects and rodents here in the U.S. For example, several research projects confirmed that between 6.5% – 11.4% of California western black-legged ticks and Pacific Coast ticks have various species of Bartonella.[8] [9] Further research identified upwards of 69 percent of squirrels and 31 percent of fleas have Bartonella.

With so many vectors that transmit Bartonella, it’s easy to see why Bartonellosis is a growing health concern.


Vector-Borne Infection

Bartonella’s Stealthy Mechanisms of Action

Bartonella bacteria are considered “stealth pathogens” because they have evolved mechanisms to evade the immune system and persist in the host organism for extended periods.

Bartonella’s mechanisms of action include:

Intracellular Invasion. Bartonella can invade and multiply within red blood cells, endothelial cells, and immune cells. By living and replicating within these cells, the bacteria can avoid detection and attack by the immune system.

Endothelial Cell Manipulation. Bartonella bacteria can manipulate endothelial cells, which line the inside of blood vessels, to create a niche for bacterial replication. This cell manipulation can cause inflammation, tissue damage, and fibrin deposition, narrowing the blood vessels.  Constriction of the blood vessels due to the bacteria in the endothelial lining reduces blood flow, oxygen, and nutrient delivery to the surrounding tissues. Leading to low oxygen states or hypoxia in the tissues, further exacerbating the inflammation in the tissues fed by those affected blood vessels.

Immune System Modulation. Bartonella bacteria can suppress the immune system by interfering with the production of cytokines and other immune factors. This immune suppression can make the host susceptible to other infections or chronic diseases and promote the persistence of Bartonella: Vector-Borne Infection.

Toxin Production. Some species of Bartonella can produce toxins contributing to symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. Though the more common species of these gram-negative bacteria have weak LPS (lipopolysaccharide) endotoxins.

Biofilm Formation. Bartonella bacteria can form biofilms, which are protective structures that shield the bacteria from antibiotics and the immune system. Biofilms are commonly found in chronic infections and can make treatment more difficult.


Tired woman

Bartonella: Symptoms and Treatment Options

Bartonella, the sneaky bacteria that can cause a range of symptoms in humans, from mild fatigue to severe complications such as endocarditis and vasculitis, requires a vigilant approach to diagnosis and treatment. But early recognition of symptoms and treatment can lead to a successful recovery.

Symptoms of Bartonella

Bartonella: Vector-Borne Infection can cause various symptoms, which can vary depending on the species of Bartonella involved and the site of infection. These symptoms can include several identifiable conditions, including: [10]

  • Cat Scratch Disease
  • Trench Fever
  • Carrion’s Disease
  • Bacillary Angiomatosis
  • Endocarditis
  • Neuroretinitis
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Bartonella: Vector-Borne Infection can sometimes present with non-specific symptoms, making diagnosis challenging. Some of the more vague symptoms associated with Bartonella infections include: [11]

  • Fatigue or insomnia
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Fever, swollen lymph nodes, frequent sore throats
  • Muscle and joint pain, joint hypermobility, pain on the soles of the feet
  • Abdominal pain and pelvic pain
  • Weight loss, nausea
  • Vision problems, retinitis
  • Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, mood swings, irritability, and agitation
  • Memory problems and cognitive difficulties
  • Neuropathic pain, dizziness, vertigo
  • Autonomic dysfunction, POTS, tremors, seizures
  • Rashes and stretch marks

These symptoms can also be associated with other conditions, making identifying Bartonella as the underlying cause challenging. Compared to Lyme disease, which is known for migrating muscle, joint, and nerve pain, Bartonella presentations tend to have more consistent body pains.


Field and open sky

Co-Infections: Bartonella’s Link to Lyme Disease

The challenge with ticks and other insect vectors is that they often carry multiple infectious organisms, making you more likely to be exposed and infected with more than one organism (co-infection) if you are bitten.

Research suggests that Bartonella: Vector-Borne Infection occurs in conjunction with the well-known tick-borne illness Lyme disease in up to 60 percent of cases.[12]

Co-infection with Bartonella can potentially complicate Lyme disease, leading to more severe symptoms and a longer duration of illness. Some studies suggest that co-infection with Bartonella may also increase the risk of developing chronic Lyme disease. And although we use the term “co-infection,” people can be infected by more than one organism from different vectors.  For example, a person could have Lyme disease from a tick bite in New York state and Bartonella from a cat scratch.

Given the potential for co-infection with Bartonella in individuals with Lyme disease, testing for Bartonella: Vector-Borne Infection in patients who have persistent symptoms despite Lyme disease treatment is recommended.


Vector-Borne Infection tests

Bartonella Testing

Several tests can be used to diagnose Bartonella: Vector-Borne Infection, including:

Blood Tests

Blood tests can detect antibodies to Bartonella bacteria, indicating a past or current infection. These used to diagnose Bartonella infection include: [13]

  • Bartonella ImmunoBlots: This test can detect antibodies to specific Bartonella bacteria in the body, helping to determine the presence and severity of a Bartonella: Vector-Borne Infection. It is a more advanced technology than the western blot test often used for Lyme disease.
  • Bartonella IgXSpot: This test measures the T cell immune response to Bartonella bacteria, which is helpful in the early stages of infection before the B cells begin to make antibodies or in circumstances where the humoral or B cell component of the immune system isn’t recognizing the Bartonella: Vector-Borne Infection.
  • Bartonella IFA: This test uses an indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA) assay that creates a fluorescent complex visualized under a microscope. The intensity of the fluorescence indicates the level of antibody present. This is often considered a screening test.
  • Bartonella FISH: This test uses fluorescently labeled probes that specifically bind to the genetic material of Bartonella bacteria. When the probes bind to the bacteria, they emit a fluorescent signal that can be detected and analyzed under a microscope. This test is highly specific but not sensitive, meaning if you have a positive FISH, you can feel confident the test is a true positive. However, if the FISH is negative, you have not ruled out the possibility of a positive infection.

PCR Testing

PCR testing, also done using a blood sample, can detect the DNA of Bartonella bacteria in blood or tissue samples.[14] This highly specific test can detect low levels of Bartonella DNA, making it a helpful testing tool; however, it is similar to FISH in its sensitivity.


Bartonella bacteria can be cultured from blood and CSF tissue samples, but this method can take several weeks, is not always successful, and is rarely used for diagnosis.


Vector-Borne Infection supplements

Treating Bartonella

Building an effective treatment plan for Bartonella infections typically involves a multi-faceted approach that targets the bacteria, supports the immune system, and manages symptoms. Here are some of the steps that can be taken to treat Bartonella:

  1. Antimicrobial therapy: Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, antibiotics are prescribed to target the Bartonella bacteria. Common antibiotics used to treat bartonellosis include azithromycin, doxycycline, and rifampin.[15] Herbal antimicrobials can also be employed depending on the infection’s complexity and the patient’s and provider’s desires.
  2. Support therapy: In addition to antibiotics, supportive therapies can help manage symptoms, boost the immune system, and decrease inflammation. This may include supplements, vitamins, herbs, stress management techniques, and lifestyle changes.
  3. Antimicrobials and Biofilm Busters: Some strains of Bartonella form biofilms, making them more antibiotic-resistant. In such cases, biofilm busters may be added to help break down the biofilm and increase the effectiveness of antibiotics or herbal antimicrobials.[16]  Biofilm busters often are proteolytic enzymes that digest the biofilms, allowing entry of the herbs or antibiotics and the immune system to attack the bacteria.

It’s important to note that treatment for Barontella can be challenging, and in some cases, the infection may persist or recur despite treatment. Regular follow-up and symptom monitoring are essential to ensure effective treatment and prevent complications.



5 Bartonella Myths You Should Know About

There are several myths surrounding Bartonella. Here are 5 Bartonella myths that you should know about.

Myth: Bartonella is the same as Lyme disease.

Fact: While both Bartonella and Lyme disease are tick-borne illnesses and can sometimes have similar symptoms, they are caused by different bacteria.

Myth: Bartonella is only transmitted by fleas and ticks.

Fact: While fleas, ticks, and other insects are the most common vectors for Bartonella, the bacteria is also transmitted through other means, such as bites from infected animals or scratches from infected cats.

Myth: Bartonella is contagious.

Fact: Bartonella is not considered contagious because it is primarily transmitted through the bites of infected fleas or ticks. But it can be transmitted from animal to person from a scratch or bite. With that said, ongoing studies have shown that Bartonella can be transmitted to children in utero or during a cesarean section.[17]

Myth: Bartonella infections are easy to diagnose.

Fact: Bartonella infections can be difficult to diagnose due to their wide range of symptoms and the fact that the bacteria can be difficult to detect on lab tests.

Myth: Cat Scratch Fever is easily treated with antibiotics.

Fact: Antibiotics can effectively treat Cat Scratch Fever, but the effectiveness of antibiotics may depend on the severity of the infection and the individual’s immune response. In some cases, Cat Scratch Fever can be self-limiting and resolve without treatment, but in others, it can lead to serious complications. And some people may experience persistent or chronic symptoms even after treatment.


The Clinical Significance of Bartonella

The number and variety of vectors that transmit Bartonella, including fleas, ticks, and lice, suggests that this bacteria may be a significant global health concern. Additionally, Bartonella’s ability to cause a wide range of symptoms can make it challenging to diagnose and treat. Not only that, but Bartonella and mold toxin illness are the most common triggers for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. So the urgency to identify and appropriately treat this infection is paramount.

The clinical significance of Bartonella underscores the importance of early detection and treatment of tick-borne illnesses and the need for ongoing research to better understand the biology and pathogenesis of these diseases.


Spring flowers

The Spring Center, Healing Happens Here

If you suspect you have a Bartonella infection, MCAS that isn’t improving, or you have been receiving long-term treatment for Lyme disease without resolution, it’s crucial to seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional – someone who has experience diagnosing and treating Bartonella who can develop an individualized treatment plan.

At The Spring Center, we are experts in treating Bartonella and strive to create an atmosphere of hope, healing, and empowerment.

We want to provide you with as much helpful information as possible so that you can make well-informed decisions about your health and well-being.

Subscribe for your health today and gain valuable insight into living your healthiest life. Or, enroll in your health today and start your journey to optimal health.



  1. “Bartonellosis – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment | NORD.” https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/bartonellosis/. Accessed 18 Apr. 2023.
  2. “Bartonella henselae infection or cat scratch disease (CSD) | CDC.” 10 Jan. 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/bartonella/bartonella-henselae/index.html. Accessed 18 Apr. 2023.
  3. “Bartonella quintana infection.” https://www.cdc.gov/bartonella/bartonella-quintana/index.html. Accessed 18 Apr. 2023.
  4. “Bartonella bacilliformis infection.” https://www.cdc.gov/bartonella/bartonella-bacilliformis/index.html. Accessed 18 Apr. 2023.
  5. “Strategy for identification & characterization of Bartonella henselae ….” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3657863/. Accessed 18 Apr. 2023.
  6. “Bartonella infections in cats and dogs including zoonotic aspects.” 4 Dec. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6280416/. Accessed 24 Apr. 2023.
  7. “Human Bartonellosis: An Underappreciated Public Health Problem?.” 19 Apr. 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6630881/. Accessed 18 Apr. 2023.
  8. “Co-detection of Bartonella henselae, Borrelia burgdorferi … – PubMed.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16584332/. Accessed 24 Apr. 2023.
  9. “Investigation of Bartonella infection in ixodid ticks from California.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12135237/. Accessed 24 Apr. 2023.
  10. “Recommendations for Treatment of Human Infections Caused by ….” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC415619/. Accessed 19 Apr. 2023.
  11. “Pathogenicity and treatment of Bartonella infections – PubMed.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24933445/. Accessed 19 Apr. 2023.
  12. “Potential for Tick-borne Bartonelloses – PMC – NCBI.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3322042/. Accessed 19 Apr. 2023.
  13. “Bartonella Diagnostic Tests Kits – IGeneX.” https://igenex.com/disease/bartonella/. Accessed 19 Apr. 2023.
  14. “Diagnosis of Cat Scratch Disease with Detection of Bartonella ….” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1233974/. Accessed 19 Apr. 2023.
  15. Antibiotic Susceptibility of Bartonella Grown in Different Culture ….” 8 Jun. 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8229624/. Accessed 19 Apr. 2023.
  16. “Effect of different drugs and drug combinations on killing stationary ….” 10 Apr. 2020, https://bmcmicrobiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12866-020-01777-9. Accessed 19 Apr. 2023.
  17. “Molecular Evidence of Perinatal Transmission of Bartonella vinsonii ….” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2884525/. Accessed 24 Apr. 2023.