New Species of Bacteria Discovered at UCSF

NPR's All Things Considered reports that "[a] new species of bacteria has been discovered, thanks to an American tourist who caught it while traveling in Peru. Dr. Jane Koehler, an infectious-disease specialist who led the team that found the species, named it Bartonella rochalimae, after a long-dead Brazilian scientist." NPR's Rebecca Roberts speaks with Koelher about the discovery of the bacterium, and why that particular name was selected for it. UCSF earlier reported that the bacterium, a close cousin of that which caused the debilitating World War I trench fever, had been isolated at UCSF from a patient who had been on an international vacation. The woman, who has since recovered, suffered from symptoms similar to malaria or typhoid fever, two infections that can occur in returning travelers. But genetic detective work revealed that she was infected with a new bacterium that had never before been isolated from a human. A UCSF infectious disease team, in collaboration with colleagues from other institutions, found that the new microbe is genetically similar to one spread by body lice in the trenches during World War I. That bacterium, called Bartonella quintana, caused a disease known as trench fever, and debilitated tens of thousands of soldiers with severe leg and back pain and recurrent fevers. The new species, recently named Bartonella rochalimae, is also closely related to the bacterium identified about 10 years ago as the cause of cat scratch disease, Bartonella henselae, which infects more than 25,000 people a year in the U.S. The discovery is reported in the June 7 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Before 1990, no Bartonella infections had been identified in the U.S. The new discovery is the sixth species identified that can infect humans, said Jane Koehler, MD, professor of infectious diseases at UCSF and senior author on the new paper.
Bacteremia, Fever, and Splenomegaly Caused by a Newly Recognized Bartonella Species Marina E. Eremeeva, MD, PhD, Helen L. Gerns, BA, Shari L. Lydy, PhD, Jeanna S. Goo, BS, Edward T. Ryan, MD, Smitha S. Mathew, BS, Mary Jane Ferraro, PhD, Judith M. Holden, MPH, William L. Nicholson, PhD, Gregory A. Dasch, PhD, and Jane E. Koehler, MD New England Journal of Medicine 356:2381-2387, June 7, 2007 Abstract | Full Text | Full Text (PDF)
Related Links: New Bacteria Named After Brazilian Scientist All Things Considered, NPR, June 7, 2007 New Bacterium Related to Cause of Trench Fever Discovered at UCSF UCSF News Release, June 6, 2007 World War I Disease Showing Up in Homeless AIDS Patients UCSF Daybreak, December 29, 1997