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Clinical Manifestations Associated with Bartonella henselae Infection in a Tropical Region

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  • 1 Department of Microbiology, Territory Pathology, Royal Darwin Hospital, Rocklands, Australia

ABSTRACT

Bartonella henselae is a zoonotic Gram-negative Bacillus associated with self-limited regional lymphadenopathy. In recent decades, an expanding spectrum of clinical manifestations has been described, in part, due to improved diagnostics. However, updated epidemiological data are sparse. We retrospectively reviewed the clinical features of 31 patients with B. henselae infection over 15 years from 2005 to 2019, in the tropical Top End of Australia. Our annual disease incidence of 1.3 cases per 100,000 population is lower than that in the national database surveillances in the United States, but the hospitalization incidence of 0.9 per 100,000 population in our region is higher than those reported in the literature, with an average length of stay of 9 days. Patients were more commonly male, aboriginal, and aged less than 14 years (median age: 7 years), living in a rural setting with presentation during our monsoon season. The disease spectrum included lymph node disease (74%), organ peliosis, endocarditis, cutaneous lesions, parapharyngeal abscess, parotitis, and neurologic and ocular syndromes. Lymph node disease was far commoner in children than the more serious systemic B. henselae infections associated with adults (P = 0.074). Although no deaths were reported, significant morbidities were observed. Two endocarditis cases presented with glomerulonephritis, and hematological and neurological features mimicking vasculitis, and consequently received immunosuppressants. One case was only diagnosed after representation with serial embolic strokes. Given the heterogeneity of disease manifestations with nonspecific symptoms and significant consequences, a timely and accurate diagnosis is needed to avoid unnecessary treatments or interventions.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Sze yen Tay, Department of Microbiology, Territory Pathology, Royal Darwin Hospital, 105 Rocklands Dr., Rocklands 0810, Australia. E-mail: szeyen.tay@nt.gov.au

Authors’ addresses: Sze yen Tay, Kevin Freeman, and Robert Baird, Department of Microbiology, Territory pathology, Royal Darwin Hospital, Rocklands, Australia, E-mails: szeyen.tay@nt.gov.au, kevin.freeman@nt.gov.au, and rob.baird@nt.gov.au.

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