a lone star tick, tick bites

Most people are familiar with tick-borne diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme disease. But other diseases transmitted by ticks and fleas and biting flies may be flying under the radar. One such organism is called Bartonella.

More Than Cat Scratch Fever

Bartonella is known as the cause of cat scratch fever, but its significance is much greater. New research suggests that it may underlie many hard-to-treat conditions. Joint pain, brain fog and chronic fatigue may all be symptoms of a difficult-to-detect Bartonella infection. Might you have Bartonellosis?

This Week’s Guests:

Edward Breitschwerdt, DVM, is Professor of Internal Medicine at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He is a co-director of the Vector Borne Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, which has been testing animals for vector borne infections, including Bartonella, since 1984. He is chief scientific officer at Galaxy Diagnostics. He  spoke to us previously in 2010 about other tickborne diseases.

B. Robert Mozayeni, MD, is a rheumatologist specializing in chronic inflammatory diseases with neurovascular as well as rheumatic manifestations. He is the founder and Executive Director of the Translational Medicine Group and chief medical officer of Galaxy Diagnostics.

The article published by Drs. Breitschwerdt & Mozayeni was in Emerging Infectious Diseases in 2012. Here is a link to the full free article.

Listen to the Podcast

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs of this broadcast may be purchased a for $9.99.

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photo credit: John Tann via photopin cc

Air Date:August 30, 2014

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  1. Ann Rogerson Weaver
    Wake Forest, NC

    Very interesting conversation. I was introduced to cat scratch fever 43 years ago when my then 2 year old daughter was scratched by a stray cat. She developed an egg size swelling on the back of her neck. The doctor immediately told us it was cat scratch fever and no treatment was advised.

  2. vs

    I had a difficult delivery of my son in 1987 and required two blood transfusions. I was never the same after that and began developing a lot of the symptoms described in connection with bartonella. But I never could get a diagnosis. Fibromyalgia was a new topic then but I didn’t fit the profile although muscular skeletal pain and horrendous fatigue were daily experiences.
    In 2004 I developed sarcoidosis which at first was thought to possibly be tuberculosis. Simultaneously, I had other symptoms (vomiting, sinus congestion) which my pulmonologist did not recognize as sarcoid. I became somewhat better after a couple of years and it was assumed the sarcoid was gone. Yet I remained feeling ill and exhausted, with a lot of pain issues considered to be arthritic.
    In Oct. 2010 my cat bit and scratched my hand which immediately swelled. My hand turned purple and I couldn’t use it. Red lines went up my arm. Went to the ER that night and was treated with antibiotics. The ER doc said I had an abnormally rapid response to the bite.
    That same month I developed what seemed like the sinus infection from hell (without mucus though). My pain level was excruciating – like a taser was going off inside my head behind my nose and between my ears. I developed very loud tinnitus. I also have inexplicable burning, tingling pain in my legs and back that is similar to the electrocuting pain in my head and sinuses.
    Several months after the bite I developed shingles with a painful episode of post herpetic pain during which I was unable to walk unassisted.
    I have had antibiotics numerous times since then but I will only feel better for a day or two and then I return to the wretched state of pain, congestion, fatigue, memory loss, etc. I’ve seen all sorts of useless doctors and have spent thousands of dollars with no answers, although a recent MRI ordered by a compassionate allergist showed sinusitis and inflammation of sinus lining.
    I’ve been taking strong antibiotics for over a month and I have lessening of pain, some very good days, and am able to breathe freely at times. A breakthrough, but still only a 25% improvement. I’ve been told in no way could my symptoms be from a mere sinus infection and I should forget looking for a diagnosis.
    I’m adding this next detail only because it might be helpful to others: my cat has a touchy stomach and had always been a daily vomiter. No vet could find anything wrong with him but he wasn’t extensively examined because in all other ways he was robustly healthy. Several months ago his vomit changed and became very smelly like feces. I switched his food again (always gave him the healthiest, grain free food I could find) and now he eats boiled chicken with a tiny bit of taurine sprinkled on it. His vomiting has essentially stopped.
    I take good care of myself – eat healthy, maintain a healthy weight, live in natural beauty and have a great marriage. Until I heard this interview I thought I was doomed to a painful life forever, but now I have hope.
    Sorry for this long comment. Thank you so much for this interview. It gives me a new paradigm to consider and explore.

  3. TD

    I came in late on this show, but will listen to the entire thing. I was treated for bartonella years ago from a cat bite (the cat later died when the bartonella infected his heart according to a necropsy). This makes me really wonder about some of the symptoms I have and I will investigate further. Thanks for a great show.

  4. Margaret E.

    Well, Mr and Mrs. Graedon, I’m very thankful to you both for what you do! Today, I listened to episode #907. The conversation led me to thinking about my doctor who has just diagnosed me with Rheumatoid A. He believes I should have a knee replacement at age 53. But he failed to realize, or has ignored that my pain is in both knees.
    My thinking is that I need a second opinion and insist on the Bartonella test. I do have pains that shouldn’t be in my left knee. But,my right knee on the other hand I thought was due to fatigue from several falls in my classroom. These pains have been causing me to rethink my lifestyle and life expectations. Your opinions please!

  5. Linda J. O.

    I was scratched by a cat I rescued after a hurricane, I lived in Florida at that time. I think it was 1985 but can not find my medical file to prove the date. The scratch was on my left wrist and the lymph nodes under my arm pit swelled up the size of and egg.
    The Doctors at that time told me there was no such thing as cat scratch disease, AKA cat scratch fever. This was EXTREMLY painful, I carried my elbow out even with my shoulder to prevent some of the pain. I became so depressed and exhausted that it seemed this would be what killed me….I was in my 30’s, the doctors were not sure what was wrong.
    I was eventually given Keflex and the swelling in my arm pit was opened in the clinic and drained. The wound was to be kept open and allowed to drain, q-tip, swabbing with peroxide several times daily. I don’t remember how long or how much Keflex but I did recover and I still have a 1/2 inch scar in my arm pit from it.
    I will be 65 this year and am wondering if my “old age” complaints aren’t part of this previous infection. Thanks for informing us of this emerging problem. I wonder if a sample of blood from me would be of any help for research, I live about 3 hrs from (Duke), Raleigh N.C.

  6. SES

    I have been reading through these comments and I have not read anything about the use of Lauricidin to treat Lyme. I am currently taking it for Shingles and when I read about it online I was struck by the number of people who seem to have had great success using Lauricidin for Lyme disease (among other things).
    I would be curious to know what you think about Lauricidin in general, but especially with regard to tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme.

  7. JB

    Thank you so much for this info.
    I was bitten by a large tick (not deer tick) about 8 years ago in the back of my head. I treated it as nothing to be concerned about but after 2 weeks was severly unable to keep my balance while in a turning motion. Nightly I woke up with severe knee joint pain that would not let me sleep. I have a fairly high pain tolerance but this was very persistent and the antibiotics which I had received for a 21 day dosage did not change any symptoms. (A Lymes test was not taken but Lymes was presumed). Not until I was directed by a homeopath to take 1/2 tsp of colloidal silver 3 times in a day along with olive leaf and molybdinum did I receive relief and retained energy. The leg pain returns when I have been exposed to further bites as while gardening (live in Wisconsin’s North) but the same homeopathic seems to help.

  8. nitelioness

    I’m scared. I took in two rescue kittens who were taken in by a private shelter. I was looking for a kitten for my furry feline buddy who has been with me most of her life. The owner of the shelter tugged at my heart and suggested I adopt a male and female who almost died and are fortunate to have their vision. She said that both were spayed/neutered, and there would be no medical expenses (obviously, I knew they would have to be kept up on their shots and see the doc if they got sick), and that they were “fully vetted”.
    She said she’d waive the adoption fee she usually charges for vetted adoptions (I wasn’t worried about that — my heart went out to them and I believed her account of their history and she brought what appeared to be their medical records when I met her to bring them home.)
    It was obvious from the moment they were in my car, that one or both was sick. I called this woman when we got home after realizing the little girl was sneezing up bloody mucus. The woman first told me that neither kitten had sneezed a bit. The next day I became more concerned, called her again, and she revealed that the female had to be taken out of her shelter and that they had problems with minor URI”s.
    I had to to get them both in to see my Vet and still have them separate from my long-term kitty to keep her from getting sick.
    Suddenly, fleas were everywhere. My senior kitty has never gone outside nor have we had problems with flees in this house where she has lived for the almost 16 years since I adopted her.
    I talked to another woman who had supposedly worked more closely with the kittens (I did not get the full medical records — it was merely a summary sheet for each that was handed to me). The second woman told me that there had been a terrible flea infestation at the shelter this past summer. I saw on the summary sheets that neither kitten had been given flea medication for two months before I adopted them.
    I’ve been working so hard and have all three on an expensive treatment program. I, however, am more sick every day. I’m bit all over my body — they bite me through my clothes, even. I believe there is at least one who has made a home in my hair. I have rashes and my hands are purple and leathery and I’m feverish, had a terrible headache, lose any ability to concentrate several times a day, and have nowhere I feel safe resting or sitting.
    I’m calling my doctor as soon as the office opens — thank you for sharing this…I was going to hope for the best for fear my family would laugh at me!

  9. Greg B.

    See if taking a well-absorbed magnesium supplement (malate, glycinate, taurate, etc.) reduces your symptoms. I saw some studies which found they could turn anaphylaxis on and off by controlling the magnesium content in diet (of guinea pigs). Magnesium is required to break down histamines, and it is somewhat sedative in the immune system.

  10. dd

    for more info on lyme you can watch the film “under our skin” available on netflix many hulu or online elsewhere. in that film it profiles a few lyme literate doctors the last of which is a washington state physician who treats lyme naturally (though that isn’t stated in the film). you can also google “healing lyme ” for some good information (including a book by the name) on various herbal lyme protocols. (there are many )

  11. T

    I’m glad to hear you found good docs and got better! It’s so important to share these stories. Thanks, T

  12. dd

    MFK, I prefer not to list the antibiotics that I have taken for the same reasons Dr. B and Dr. M mentioned. The research indicates that effective antibiotic treatment may vary with the type of Bartonella, the stage of the disease, what other medical or health conditions an individual may have, etc.
    It is important to emphasize that although antibiotics may be seen as a relatively “safe” class of drugs, there can be serious side effects alone, or when mixed with other medications/conditions. The antibiotics I was prescribed did appear to me to have slow the course of the disease and they were a well researched course of treatment.
    It is important to consult/work with a medically trained and licensed physician with expertise with Bartonella. It is not easy finding physicians with this specialty, but it is not easy living with Bartonella either. Best of luck to you MFK.

  13. Karen

    Who is the MD in McKinleyville, CA that is treating with herbal protocol. The writer who spoke of this doctor mentioned they were much better after 3 months. What herbals is the writer using?

  14. MFK

    Thank you for sharing your story. It seems that the antibiotics recommended are not working for you. “I am not cured despite over a year of antibiotics, and the disease is progressively affecting other organs…”
    Would you be willing to share what specific antibiotics you have been taking and how that decision was made? Also, are you using or have you considered using other possible remedies?
    I am currently trying to get a doctor to work with me and order the tests from Galaxy. I have not suffered for as long as you have but am seeing the progression over the past year. Thanks for whatever info you can add.

  15. dd

    I am also a Veterinarian who has been diagnosed via Dr. B’s lab as infected with Bartonella.
    About 17 yrs ago I was diagnosed with “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” but recovered over a period of several years. My health remained unremarkable for a decade and I was a fully functional, highly motivated medical professional when, acutely, I had developed a non-familial, inflammatory osteo-arthritis in my hands. This arthritis rapidly progressed to other joints in my body bringing a halt to my career and stress to my life in general. Other early symptoms, fyi, were a severe long duration bout with pneumonia (no prior lung problems ever), fatigue and “brain-fog”.
    After more than a year of consulting well-credentialed arthritis specialists, I did not have a causal diagnosis, only a list of symptoms. Furthermore, the primary recommended treatment consisted of immune suppressive drugs – just what a parasitic pathogen dreams of, lol. Then, a veterinary colleague pointed me to Dr. Breitschwerdt.
    After a brief consultation and some coordination with my primary physician, Dr. Breitschwerdt’s lab provided an important answer – a positive diagnosis of Bartonella (I received this at no cost, but I strongly urge anyone tested or financially able to make a monetary donation to assist this important research.)
    I have shared my knowledge of Dr. B’s work with many veterinarians, physicians and academic professionals. No one has disputed that there is solid science coming from Galaxy Labs and Dr. Breitschwerdt’s publications.
    I feel as if I owe him my life, and certainly my sanity, because there is nothing worse, imo, than not knowing what was causing such a progressive deterioration of my body. I an not cured despite over a year of antibiotics, and the disease is progressively affecting other organs according the my physicians, but knowing your enemy is half the fight.
    Dr. Breitschwerdt, is a hero in my opinion, because of his unwavering personal conviction and efforts to focus scientific light and attention onto this terrible stealth pathogen. Only now, several years since my diagnosis, has the general medical profession seemingly learned that Bartonella causes more than a self limiting lymphatic disorder.
    Also, thanks to you, Joe and Terry Graedon, for your work and efforts to awaken our society to the reality of this and other related pathogens. Your radio show is aired on our local public radio station. The future of our country and our world is truly in the hands of dedicated individuals like Dr. B, Dr. M and yourselves, who work with focus and devotion to assist humanity.

  16. rainbowbobcat

    I don’t think peoplespharmacy will show comments that mention specific brands or doctors, because I have written several that were not shown. Your best bet is to Google “Lyme literate doctors” for a wealth of helpful information and websites.

  17. cynthia

    Hi was wondering if you could tell me the herbal protocol they gave you? I’ve had lyme and co infections for 3 years now. also felt like I was poisoned and that death was imminent. Found a pretty good doc in redwood valley after 2 long years of insanity. He has me on 3 different antibiotics and a multitude of supplements, which finally after 6 months seems to be helping… But I’m interested in an herbal approach and I’m so glad you are feeling better!

  18. ES

    My son has Bartonella Rash and has had it for six years. There was no mention of this on the show. Doctors kept telling us it was just stretch marks, but he was thin and the marks are deep, and colored red and purple all over him. Recently he has developed raised small bumps all over his back and arms.
    Someone recently mentioned to me the possibility of this being Bartonella rash, caused by ticks or cat scratches. I looked it up and he could have posed for the photos I saw online. Unfortunately, I can’t find a doctor under my insurance that knows what it is and I don’t have the funds to go to a LLD that won’t take insurance.
    My son rarely sleeps, is tired, has brain fog, memory lapses, foot and joint pain, tingling and numbness in his hands and is diagnosed as bipolar, which could all be related to the Bartonella rash from what I understand. Why wasn’t the rash mentioned as a more obvious symptom in some people?

  19. ASH

    I listened to your show about Bartonella shortly after hearing that a friend near Annapolis had been struggling with ever increasing rheumatic pain and fatigue. He had been making the diagnostic rounds which suggested that he might have Lyme disease or some auto immune condition. I called my friends this morning to alert them to Bartonella only to hear that he’d had a saliva test which had just confirmed him positive for the bacterium.
    While a diagnosis isn’t a cure, I was pleased that mainstream medicine had picked up on it. I have forwarded my friends your podcast so that they can understand the scope of the problem and hear that there are doctors out there who are committed to finding the best treatment.
    You are an amazing resource. Thank you for all the information that you bring forward that helps all of us who hear you make more informed decisions about healthcare.

  20. MFK

    There are a number of doctors in NC. If you contact ILADS (International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society) they can give you information about NC physicians.

  21. MB

    I’m always suspicious of people/companies who make $ off disease and people desperate for a treatment. BTW I don’t
    actually have a good immune system at all as I’ve had serious cancer twice. My point was merely that all this is very complicated and the epidemiology is definitely not well documented nor is there sufficient research in this as in many diseases.

  22. MFK

    Kim, if you contact Galaxy Diagnostics (919-313-9672), they have several NC physicians whom they could refer me to if I did not find someone in SC. I spoke with Amanda and she also referred me to ILADS (International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society) for physician referral. http://www.ilads.org/

  23. sc

    With a lifetime of professional animal health care work and outdoor activities and living in one of the ‘hot spots’ for Lyme disease, the topic of insect vectored disease is of great interest.
    But Dr. Breitschwerdt’s comment that the animal hosts should be eliminated has several problems.
    One, even if it temporarily reduces transmission rates killing everything off is never a long term solution as animals move around far more than humans can know or control so contact would continue somewhere, somehow.
    Secondly, there are many many interactions between any combination of species in the natural world that create a web of life; remove the squirrels and years later you will notice a change in, for example, the regeneration of oak trees in an area. There are many other things that would be changed. If you believe the amount if knowledge we have of insect vectored disease is “1/3 of the iceberg”, what we know of the rest of the web of life is even less. Killing of parts of it to solve our problems always wrecks more than it fixes and we never figure that out until after it happens.
    Thirdly, the bacteria may be capable of changing to changed circumstances faster than we can change their environment. Are we teaching them to adapt faster by forcing them to find new hosts? Why don’t we figure out ways to deal with the problem we have instead of creating a new one we won’t know even exists until later?
    Fourth, there may already be more animal vectors we don’t know about yet. If we kill off what we do know about there is no assurance that will really solve anything. With past results from this type of behavior we can safely plan on it not working for long, if at all.
    In general your interview was fascinating and what we in southwest Wisconsin are hurrying to learn about these diseases is both supported by your comments and enhanced. I look forward to hearing of your future work.

  24. CarlC

    re: To the person who was treated herbally == can you give information about your treatment?

  25. DJL, DVM

    As a veterinarian I know from personal experience that this program will help physicians to be aware of the seriousness and prevalence of Bartonellosis, cat scratch disease. I would like it if a copy of this program could be sent to every infectious disease physician in the country. Then many CSD infected people would get the appropriate diagnosis and treatment, thereby improving their quality of life sooner than later.

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