Bartonella henselae
Rebecca Prewett

Bartonella henselae is a small gram-negative baccilus. It is an aerobic organism ~1Ám in length and ~ 0.5 Ám in diameter, that ocassionaly takes a slightly curved shape. It makes small jerking movements in the fresh state, but has no whips.1 Optimal growing conditions are blood (5%), moist atmosphere with a rich CO2 count, and temperature at 35║ C.1 Identification of B. henselae is through Warthin-Starry silver staining.2 This picture represents the shape and size of the organism.


Bartonella henselae has been known for a while as the cause of many diseases, such as bacillary epithelioid angiomatosis, bacillary peliosis hepatic, and bacteremia; however, it is now the accepted primary cause of cat scratch fever.

Cat scratch fever is a disease contracted from the scratch or bite of a kitten (older cats are typically infected with the disease because their immune systems are fully developed and able to fight off the disease). The organism resides in cats, but produces no symptoms in them. The organism is transferred through the saliva of the cat or from under the cats' claws. It typically affects children under 17, the majority being under 12.3 The symptoms include fever, malaise, headache, and within 3 to 10 days4 the lymph nodes nearest to the site of infection begin to swell. Most cases of the disease will resolve themselves, but this could take months. Antibiotics can be prescribed that will help resolve the disease; however, in some cases, it is necessary to drain the lymph node of the bacteria.

Children and the immune compromised are the most susceptible to B. henselae .

The disease can be prevented by washing all scratches and bites with soap and water and by adopting cats older than one year.


1Euzeby, J.P. Bartonella henselae. Veterinary Dictionary of Bacterilogy. 10 June 2000.
2MMID. Bartonella henselae. 13 April, 1999.
3Little, Susan, DVM. CFA Health Committee Cat Scratch Disease. 1999.
4Cat Scratch Disease, Bartonella henselae. 2001.
Image obtained from, 2002.

*Disclaimer - This report was written by a student participaring in a microbiology course at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The accuracy of the contents of this report is not guaranteed and it is recommended that you seek additional sources of information to verify the contents.


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