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Other bacterial diseasesCat-scratch disease 

Other bacterial diseasesCat-scratch disease
Other bacterial diseasesCat-scratch disease

Michel Drancourt

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date: 08 December 2021

Cat-scratch disease (CSD) is a worldwide zoonoses caused by infection with the bacterium, Bartonella henselae. The formal description of the disease by Debré in 1950 (Debré et al. 1950) corresponds to the most frequently diagnosed form of the disease. Cats are the main reservoir for B. henselae and transmission is via Ctniocephalides felis. Humans usually become infected after being scratched or bitten by a cat and is most frequently seen in children and young adults.

CSD is a self-limiting illness which often begins with a small papule developing at the site of cat scratch or bite within 3-14 days of the infection. Nearby lymph nodes, usually neck, axillary or groin, become swollen and can persist for several months. It may take up to 7 weeks for the enlarged lymph nodes to appear and individuals may not recall any cat scratch or bite. In healthy cases antibiotics are not indicated.

About 5-10% of patients may develop other forms of CSD including eye infection characterised by conjunctivitis and swollen lymph nodes, rash, liver and spleen enlargement, and more rarely encephalitis. Immunosuppresed patients may develop more severe disease, such as bacillary angiomatosis.

General advice for preventing CSD includes avoiding rough play with cats, particularly kittens. Cat scratches and bites should be washed immediately with water and soap and cats should not be allowed to lick open wounds.

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