Bartonella, a Stealth Infection

Bartonella, a Stealth Infection

(updated 3/29/15)

This gram negative intracellular bacterium has an unusual ability to hide from your immune system.  First, it’s gram negative, which means it has a cell wall to protect it.  Second, it’s intracellular, so it likes to hide in your cells.  It also produces surface chemicals called lipopolysaccharides (LPS) which turn off the immune and inflammatory systems in your body leaving you with diminished defenses. 

Transmission of Bartonella

These stealth invaders are transmitted by vectors such as cats, rodents, ticks, fleas, flea feces, lice, dust mites and sand flies.  Cats, cat scratches and fleas are really big transmission problems especially orphan or outdoor cats that people sometimes feed and adopt. 

“Of the approximately 60 million pet cats in the United States, at least 20% are infected with Bartonella.” “Exposure to fleas or flea feces is the most important factor in transmission of the disease to cats,” says Dr. Mike Stone, board certified internist at Tufts University.

Bartonella Symptoms

Fatigue, weakness, headaches, dizziness, irritability, aggression, muscle pain, joint pain, nerve pain, back pain, fever, chills, heart palpations and a host of skin rashes (papules, hives, stretch marks, and skin rashes that suddenly appear for no apparent reason and then go away).  These findings baffle most doctors.  The key here is  when the rashes appear (or get worse) they are usually associated with other symptoms such as chills at night, burning feet, worsening joint pain, etc..  bartonella rash

Bartonella is very tough on the brain because it can hide in the red blood cells and cross the blood-brain barrier.  It can be at the root of some difficult to treat psychiatric symptoms or can worsen them.  

Bartonella Facts

Approximately 12 species of Bartonella can infect humans and animals (Clin Infect Dis. (2001) 33 (6): 772-779. doi: 10.1086/322614) .  Most labs only test for two species (B. henselae and B. Quintana).  B. henselae is the notorious cat-scratch-fever bacterium and B. Quintana is notorious for trench fever.  If you’re a traveler and visited the Andes Mountains of Peru, there’s a species of bartonella called B. bacilliformis which is primarily transmitted by the sand fly and causes Carrion’s disease.  This is why a good history and clinical findings are so important.  

Bartonella is commonly found with other infections such as Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease) and is often referred to as a co-infection.  What most people don’t know is that Bartonella actually suppresses Lyme disease and becomes the primary infection.   

Bartonella can enter and harm every organ system in the body by way of its attachment or infiltration of the red blood cell, and it can cause multiple illnesses throughout the body.  These stealth pathogens can also adhere to your blood vessel walls and cause vascular problems. 

There are 2,000 published papers on Bartonella.  Unfortunately most doctors are too busy keeping up with their practices and don’t have the time to research this obscure topic.  Yet people continue to suffer with Bart because of misdiagnosis and continue to be referred out to specialists with no solid answers.  Most people who are infected with Bart quickly tire from the run-around of doctor referrals.  Discouraged, they usually seek out their own doctors through research and support groups online.     

The truth is most doctors aren’t very familiar with Bartonella.  Aside from prescribing antibiotics; they don’t really know what to do with their patients after that.  Patients who are infected usually go years without proper treatment support and their health slowly starts to decline.  Many of these patients are labeled with chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia and are living with debilitating symptoms.

How to identify Bartonella

Your history is a very good start.  Avid campers, hikers, beach goers, and cat owners are most at risk.  History of a tick bite with or without rash is also a good indicator. Any unusual rash or small open wound on your skin that you can’t account for is a good indicator.  Also, a rash that appeared followed by the chills or spontaneous chills at night is another sign. 

The thing is, although considered a stealth infection intelligently evading the immune system, Bart is not that smart because it is one of the few pathogens to leave clues (marks on your body).  

Testing for Bartonella

Although testing may not be as accurate as we’d like, I’d highly recommend at least some basic tests that may show present infection.  First start out with the typical antibody testing including IgG, IgM as well as the PCR testing, these can be quite valuable if they show up positive.  Further testing can also be of value if the preceding tests are negative.   For indirect indicator purposes VEGF, TNF-alpha, IL-1B, EBV levels, C3a, C4a and LPS can be helpful.  

Even if all the testing comes back negative and you still have symptoms associated with marks on your body (papules, hives, stretch marks, small linear open wounds and skin rashes that suddenly appear for no apparent reason) there is a strong suggestion that you may be infected with Bart.    

Bartonella Treatment

Traditional treatment options

  1. The most common treatment is antibiotic therapy.  With some people this is all you need to do.  Typically Doxycycline is most commonly ordered.
  2. Zithromax and Biaxin are also used but their effects are small and short lived. The addition of Augmentin XR to the mix can be more helpful.  Triple antibiotic therapy seems to do better than single of duel therapy.
  3. Levaquin and Cipro have also been used with some success but relapses can be common after treatment.  Cipro can cause ligament damage and may result in spontaneous tearing.  If you are taking this formula be sure to support your collagen tissues with vitamin C and glucosamine sulfate. 

Bartonella natural treatment

“When you master the basics you rarely need to look elsewhere.” 

The antibiotics listed above have their purpose and are a good first attempt to get this disease under control.  Some people respond well but others may still have post treatment health issues.  Natural treatment options can be used as a standalone therapy or can be taken alongside or after antibiotic treatment.   

  1. Nutrition is first and foremost.  You need to have the right building blocks for your body to battle this infection.  There are a number of protocols can be of benefit but avoiding refined sugars as well as fruit sugars while increasing your protein (organic meats, wild salmon, whey protein) and healthy fats (organic coconut oil, avocados, olives, nuts and nut butters) are a good start. Sugars not only feed cancer cells but they also feed pathogenic bacteria such as Bart.  Having a solid nutrition foundation is the first step to getting better.  
  2. Don’t forget about your gut which is responsible for the majority of your immune function.  Probiotics can help boost your immune capabilities as well as prebiotics such as fiber from foods.    
  3. Support the organ systems based on blood analysis.  You’ll need a CBC and Comprehensive metabolic panel to start.  Essentially if any of the function panels are out of range (such as the liver function panel) be sure to support the organ system with nutrients to enhance function.  Look for the macro and micro nutrient deficiencies and give the body what it needs for proper support.  You’ll need a natural medicine doc to help you with this.  
  4. Adrenal gland function may need to be checked as well.  Saliva test done 4X throughout the day is the best option here.  This test can determine if the stealth pathogen is taxing your reserve function which can sometimes lead to exhaustion if not handled correctly.  You’ll need a natural medicine doc to help you with this as well.
  5. Biofilms need to be broken up.  If you’re one of the people who have had issues for years then it’s likely that you may have biofilm formation.  If these organisms have a biofilm protecting them, they are shielded from antibiotics and/or herbals.  Breaking up the biofilms will help with their eradication.  There are a number of different products that can be effective.  Systemic enzyme therapy is one of them.  Taking natto-serrazime or nattokinase between meals would be of great benefit.  Lauricidin is another product that is composed of monolaurin which can break biofilms as well as break down the cell wall of Bartonella and potentially killing it.  
  6. Drainage is a crucial step in moving infection and toxins away from the organ systems and out of the tissues.  I like PEKANA homeopathic remedies and Beyond Balance Products for this purpose.  Tox-Ease is very nice for this purpose.  Lymphatic drainage products also work very nicely.  They are all safe and non-toxic.
  7. Kill the pathogen.  Bartonella is very complicated and hard to kill.  There are several herbal products that I currently use.  I base these on presenting history, symptom level and blood tests.  These herbals have strong antimicrobial, antifungal and antiviral properties.  The bacteria can’t build up resistance to them either. The herbal products are formulated with multiple and specific herbs that work in a synergistic fashion with each other and thus become very potent.  It’s so effective that the therapy is delivered in as few as 2 drops twice per day with an increase of one drop per week until a max dose is reached.  Therapy is delivered slowly and over a long period of time to avoid a die off response where the patient can become toxic with the dead debris of the pathogen.  The bottom line is there are no quick fixes with this infection only smart choices.   
  8. Support the die-off and mop up the debris with binding agents that will allow for a flawless transition towards wellness.  Products containing pyrophyllite healing clay and activated charcoal can be excellent support in removing debris, toxins and accumulated waste.  Tox-Ease as mentioned above is also supportive here.     

Once a person is symptomatically cleared they will need supporative therapy for a long time (1-2 years). Sometimes clearing one infection can bring out another hidden infection.  This is because Bartonella suppresses other infections.         

There is much more detail than what I have posted here.  It’s taken me years of study to understand the exact mechanisms of this pathogen.   For those who are suffering from Bart and are still experiencing declining health, don’t hesitate to contact me because there is hope.    


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