Not cat-scratch disease: Bartonella henselae neuroretinitis associated with non-feline pet mammals

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To describe the ocurrence of Bartonella-associated neuroretinitis secondary to non-feline pet exposure, we retrospectively reviewed medical records and imaging from patients with a clinical and serologic diagnosis of Bartonella henselae (BH). Retinal imaging included color fundus photography, optical coherence tomography (OCT) and fluorescein angiography (FA). Four eyes of two patients with cat-scratch disease were included in this study, with a mean age of 35 years. The mean follow-up was 13 months, after presentation of infectious neuroretinitis. Both patients suffered from bilateral neuroretinitis after direct contact with family pets (ferret and guinea pig).

All patients were treated with a long-term systemic antimicrobial therapy.

Visual acuity in all improved to 20/30 or better at six months. In conclusion, humans may develop cat-scratch disease when they are exposed to Bartonella henselae (BH) in the saliva of infected cats or BH-containing flea feces reaching the systemic circulation through scratches or mucous membranes. As the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) may reside on non-feline mammals, Bartonella-associated neuroretinitis may result from contact with other furred family pets.


For more on neuroretinitis:  All the patients denied a history of a cat or any animal contact, or of having CSD findings.

For more on Bartonella:


Fifteen species of gram-negative aerobic Bartonella are known to infect humans; however Dr. Ricardo Maggi’s statement is quite telling, “This case reinforces the hypothesis that any Bartonella species can cause human infection.”