Ed Breitschwerdt, a professor of veterinary sciences at North Carolina State University, keeps waiting for the tipping point.
For the last 30 years, Breitschwerdt
has been studying Bartonella, a genus of bacteria found in animals, ticks and humans.
"It's frustrating," said Breitschwerdt
Though people have known of cat scratch disease - the most public of the human diseases caused by Bartonella infection - for more than 100 years, Breitschwerdt
convinced that Bartonella is the stealth cause of many neurological, inflammatory and chronic diseases in humans.
And, unlike Lyme disease, another tick-borne illness that can cause an array of distressing symptoms, Bartonella is right in the backyard of most North Carolinians.
"It's a medically important bacteria in animals and humans in the state.
If you took every stray cat along the coast of North Carolina, three quarters of them would have Bartonella," said Breitschwerdt
"That's because the bacteria is commonly transmitted to animals by fleas."
said that, historically, vets have considered common cat flea a nuisance but have under-appreciated it as a disease vector.
For several years, Breitschwerdt
has seen all sorts of animals and mites, ticks, fleas and even spiders test positive for Bartonella.
"Animals are the primary reservoir for the Bartonella species," he
Breitschwerdt has worked with the One Health Commission, a collective that looks at the links between environmental, human and animal health.
professional and personal life has been guided by his
care for animals, his
most recent work is geared towards detecting and treating Bartonella infection in humans.
The recovery process
at a fortunate time: He
was developing new human diagnostic method for Bartonella.
"You cannot float humans or horses in enough Doxycycline to kill this bacteria," said Breitschwerdt
"People are tested several times, but Bartonella can hide in the body," Breitschwerdt
"I often talk with veterinarians who have these vague complaints - who say they've been sick for weeks or months," said Breitschwerdt
Many of the vets receive diagnoses of Lyme disease, chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, or are sent to a psychiatrist and told their symptoms are untreated depression.
cautions them to get tested for Bartonella.
has ventured into industry with Galaxy Diagnostics, a company he
founded to offer Bartonella testing kits to doctors.