2021 journal article
Bartonella henselae Detected in Malignant Melanoma, a Preliminary Study
Bartonella bacilliformis (B. bacilliformis), Bartonella henselae (B. henselae), and Bartonella quintana (B. quintana) are bacteria known to cause verruga peruana or bacillary angiomatosis, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-dependent cutaneous lesions in humans. Given the bacteria’s association with the dermal niche and clinical suspicion of occult infection by a dermatologist, we determined if patients with melanoma had evidence of Bartonella spp. infection. Within a one-month period, eight patients previously diagnosed with melanoma volunteered to be tested for evidence of Bartonella spp. exposure/infection. Subsequently, confocal immunohistochemistry and PCR for Bartonella spp. were used to study melanoma tissues from two patients. Blood from seven of the eight patients was either seroreactive, PCR positive, or positive by both modalities for Bartonella spp. exposure. Subsequently, Bartonella organisms that co-localized with VEGFC immunoreactivity were visualized using multi-immunostaining confocal microscopy of thick skin sections from two patients. Using a co-culture model, B. henselae was observed to enter melanoma cell cytoplasm and resulted in increased vascular endothelial growth factor C (VEGFC) and interleukin 8 (IL-8) production. Findings from this small number of patients support the need for future investigations to determine the extent to which Bartonella spp. are a component of the melanoma pathobiome.