Carrion's disease is typically biphasic with acute febrile illness characterized by bacteremia and severe hemolytic anemia (Oroya fever), followed by benign, chronic cutaneous lesions (verruga peruana). The causative agent, Bartonella bacilliformis, is endemic in specific regions of Peru and Ecuador. We describe atypical infection in an expatriate patient who presented with acute splenomegaly and anemia 3 years after visiting Ecuador. Initial serology and PCR of the patient's blood and serum were negative for Bartonella henselae, Bartonella quintana, and B. bacilliformis. Histology of splenic biopsy was suggestive of bacillary angiomatosis, but immunohistochemistry ruled out B. henselae and B. quintana. Bacilli (isolate EC-01) were subsequently cultured from the patient's blood and analyzed using multilocus sequence typing, protein gel electrophoresis with Western blotting, and an immunofluorescence assay (IFA) against a panel of sera from patients with Oroya fever in Peru. The EC-01 nucleotide sequences (gltA and internal transcribed spacer) and protein band banding pattern were most similar to a subset of B. bacilliformis isolates from the region of Caraz, Ancash, in Peru, where B. bacilliformis is endemic. By IFA, the patient's serum reacted strongly to two out of the three Peruvian B. bacilliformis isolates tested, and EC-01 antigen reacted with 13/20 Oroya fever sera. Bacilliary angiomatosis-like lesions were also detected in the spleen of the patient, who was inapparently infected with B. bacilliformis and who presumably acquired infection in a region of Ecuador where B. bacilliformis was not thought to be endemic. This study suggests that the range of B. bacilliformis may be expanding from areas of endemicity in Ecuador and that infection may present as atypical clinical disease.
Journal of Clinical Microbiology