National Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Leopoldo Izquieta Perez, National Center for Tropical Medicine, University of Guayaquil, Institute for Tropical Medicine, Eberhard-Karis University, Viral and Rickettsial Zoonosis Section, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Infectious Diseases, Michigan State University, Guayaquil, Ecuador
Human bartonellosis is a classically biphasic disease caused by infection with the alpha-2 Proteobacteria Bartonella bacilliformis, which is phylogenetically related to the etiologic agents of cat scratch disease, bacillary angiomatosis, and trench fever. In Ecuador, typical bartonellosis has remained endemic for the past century in highland provinces near the Peruvian border. During the past six years, public health officials have noted an increasing number of atypical cases in which monophasic verrucous cutaneous disease is the only clinical manifestation. Epidemiologic, immunologic, histopathologic, and molecular biological studies have confirmed the presence of sporadic, atypical bartonellosis in residents of the lowland province of Manabi, where archeologic evidence exists of bartonellosis in pre-Colombian times. Between 1987 and 1995, 11 cases of cutaneous bartonellosis were investigated and serologic studies were done on 224 persons from five villages, two lowland and three highland. In the lowland village of Pajan in the province of Manabi, there was a 21% seropositivity proportion in contacts of index cases. These combined data suggest that bartonellosis is significantly under-reported due to the existence of mild clinical disease, possibly associated with less virulent bacterial strains, which are now disseminating or re-emerging in previously disease-free areas.