Broadening the morphologic spectrum of bartonella henselae lymphadenitis: Analysis of 100 molecularly characterized cases

Christine E. Jabcuga, Long Jin, William R. Macon, Matthew T. Howard, Andre M. Oliveira, Rebecca King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Bartonella henselae lymphadenitis, or cat-scratch lymphadenitis (CSL), is classically associated with stellate microabscesses, occasional giant cells, and extension of the inflammatory infiltrate into perinodal soft tissue. Availability of B. henselae molecular testing on tissue specimens has broadened our understanding of the morphologic variation in this disease. Here we sought to describe the histopathologic features of the largest series to date of molecularly proven CSL. B. henselae polymerase chain reaction-positive tissue specimens from 2010 to 2012 were identified, and hematoxylin and eosin slides were reviewed. A single-step 16S-23S rRNA-based polymerase chain reaction testing was used to identify B. henselae on formalinfixed, paraffin-embedded tissues. A total of 100 B. henselae- positive cases were identified. The median age of the patients was 26.5 years (range, 1 to 69 y). Ninety-two percent of cases presented in lymph nodes, with 66% of these occurring above the diaphragm, most commonly in the cervical chain. Of 100 cases, 57 had classical CSL features of necrotizing granulomas with microabscesses, with or without surrounding palisading histiocytes. In contrast, 43/100 cases lacked the prototypical microabscesses of CSL including: 23 cases (53.5%) with features of fungal/mycobacterial lymphadenitis, 6 (14%) cases with features of Kikuchi lymphadenitis, and 4 cases (9.3%) with the classic histologic triad of toxoplasma lymphadenitis. In summary, B. henselae lymphadenitis may lack the typical microabscesses in almost half of cases and may closely mimic other reactive, especially infectious, lymphadenopathies. Given the lack of specificity of many of these features, a low threshold for B. henselae molecular testing on tissue is warranted in the appropriate clinical context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-347
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016


  • Bartonella henselae
  • Cat-scratch disease
  • Polymerase chain reaction
  • Reactive lymphadenitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Surgery


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