What is Bacillary Angiomatosis?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 August 2019
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Bacillary angiomatosis is a relatively rare but potentially fatal illness, when not treated, can create lesions or nodules on the skin and internal tumors or growths. It tends to affect only a small percentage of the population. When first identified in the early 1980s, the origin of the condition was unclear, but it did seem to be almost exclusively found in people with severely compromised immune systems, particularly from either HIV or the AIDs virus. While in very rare instances people without HIV or AIDs may get bacillary angiomatosis, most often this bacterial-based disease is still most common in HIV/AIDs sufferers.

After some research, scientists discovered that the condition represented infection with bacteria. The most common bacteria involved may be present on animal fleas or lice that infest human bodies. These strains are Bartonella henselae or B. quintana .

Bites from either of the common carriers could potentially transmit bacteria into the bloodstream, ultimately creating symptoms of this infection. While most people may be immune, as previously mentioned, those with HIV/AIDs might lack ability to adequately fight either bacteria and respond by contraction of bacillary angiomatosis. In rare circumstances, other people exposed to either of these bacteria, particularly if they have had cat scratch fever, could also become ill.


The symptoms of bacillary angiomatosis are hard to miss. The disease causes lesions or growths, varying in size that can occur all over the skin. These can be tiny or very large, sometimes up to about 4 inches (10.16 cm) in diameter. It’s quite possible to have well over 50 growths at a time, and they can look bright red to nearly black in color, easily breaking open and bleeding at times. These will continue to develop and may be accompanied by flulike symptoms such as fever, achiness, swelling of the glands, and stomach upset.

Internal symptoms of the disease may be least noted though they are most dangerous. As growths occur on the outside skin, they can also begin to occur inside the body. This could affect vital organs and cause organ dysfunction.

There is fortunately very effective treatment for bacillary angiomatosis. The infection responds well to medications like erythromycin or tetracycline, which are common antibiotics. In patients with AIDs/HIV the only proviso is that the growths on the skin look very similar to lesions caused by Kaposi’s sarcoma. It may be necessary to make sure diagnosis is right before beginning treatment.

These symptoms, when expressed, warrant getting medical care right away. The danger to allowing the condition to progress without treatment cannot be underestimated. Bacillary angiomatosis can be viewed as not that dangerous, when treatment is initiated, though it may take up to a month for symptoms to completely resolve. Delay of diagnosis and treatment makes the illness much more concerning, and there is real chance of multi-organ failure or failure of the respiratory system if the condition is ignored.



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