So Sigmon called Dr. Ed Breitschwerdt, a veterinary researcher at N.C. State University.
Sigmon, herself a vet, knew Breitschwerdt
studied tick-borne diseases.
Sigmon recalls asking Breitschwerdt
In reaching out to Breitschwerdt
, Sigmon turned to a man who may know a hidden cause behind many chronic human ailments that often aren't recognized as infections transmitted by animals and insects.
At the heart of Breitschwerdt's
research is a pathogen carried by insects - a bacteria known as Bartonella.
Spread by biting pests such as fleas, lice, sandflies and possibly ticks, Bartonella are difficult to detect in human blood.
As a result, Breitschwerdt
thinks the bacteria are taking an unacknowledged toll on human health.
"I believe it's a silent epidemic," says Breitschwerdt, who is also an adjunct professor in infectious diseases at Duke University Medical School.
belief is based on his
own patients - the cats, dogs, rabbits, cows and other animals that harbor Bartonella in their blood.
With so many insects spreading the bacteria to so many animals, he
contends, the bugs are certain to readily infect humans.
suspected a Bartonella infection was behind Jason Sigmon's headaches.
Mr. R, 38, had worked as a physician assistant in the emergency department (ED)of a small hospital in the Midwest for nine years.
often recognized many of the patientsin the waiting room -"repeat customers" he
Mrs. K was one of them.
A divorced mother of four rambunctious boys ranging from 11 to 17 years old, she
was frequently at the ED with one son or another after a sports injury, a fall from a tree, or a bout of strep throat or flu.
Dr. Edward Breitschwerdt, professor of internal medicine at NC State's College of Veterinary Medicine and adjunct professor of medicine at Duke University, studied the bacteria Bartonella to determine how long these bacteria induce active infection in humans.
The most commonly known Bartonella-related illness is cat scratch disease, caused by B. henselae, a strain of Bartonella that can be carried in a cat's blood for months to years.
Cat scratch disease was thought to be a self-limiting, or "one-time" infection; however, Breitschwerdt's previous work discovered cases of children and adults with chronic Bartonella infections - from strains of the bacteria that are found in cats (B. henselae) and dogs (B. vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii).
In a study published in the September volume of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology
and colleagues from the Duke University
Medical Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
in Atlanta were able to detect one or more strains of Bartonella in blood samples from six patients suffering from a broad spectrum of neurological and neurocognitive abnormalities, including chronic migraines, seizures, memory loss, disorientation and weakness.
All of the patients in the study had both frequent tick exposure and significant animal exposure - some were veterinarians, others had grown up on farms or had occupations that kept them outdoors - and all of them suffered from chronic, debilitating neurological problems.
The patients were treated with antibiotics, and three of them saw marked improvement.
In the other cases, improvements were minimal or short-term.
believes that his
research offers hope - perhaps the identification of a specific infectious cause of chronic neurological disease and another potential avenue of treatment - for what could be a significant segment of the population.
"Bartonella has been described by some scientists as a 'stealth pathogen,'" he
"Our research could lead to the elimination of what may be a silent and currently unrecognized epidemic among humans."
Posted inAnimal, Medical, Publicity & Public Awareness: | TaggedBartonella
, Cat Scratch Disease
, Journal of Clinical Microbiology
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