Cat Scratch Disease Antibiotic Treatment

The cat scratch disease, also known as CSD, occurs in humans and is due to the bite or scratch of a cat or kitten. The disease is caused by a bacterium known as Bartonella henselae, and will manifest through blisters, red skin and possibly swollen lymph nodes. The treatment will consist of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and in some cases, antibiotics will be administered.

Regular Treatment for CSD

The typical treatment for humans affected by the cat scratch disease will consist of acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that will be administered to reduce the symptoms. The symptoms of CSD often include fever and inflammation of the skin or the lymph nodes that are close to the cat bite or scratch site. The doctor may also recommend cold compresses or even ice on the bite area and the swollen lymph nodes.

If the lymph nodes are severely swollen, some doctors will recommend the aspiration of the nodes using a small needle. The drainage of the lymph nodes is not typically performed, as there is a high risk of fistulae development, and secondary infections may occur. In rare cases, when the patient has severely swollen lymph nodes and pain, antibiotics such as azithromycin can be used. However, this treatment will not speed up the recovery of the patient.

Some patients may not develop any symptoms due to the cat scratch disease, so no treatment will be necessary.

Antibiotic Treatment for CSD

Antibiotics are not the first choice treatment in humans that display symptoms of cat scratch disease. Antibiotics are administered only when the patient doesn't respond to the regular treatment or is known to have a compromised immune system. A patient may have a compromised immune system due to a disease or due to the administration of certain drugs (such as corticosteroids) that suppress the immune system.

The patients that have a compromised immune system will not be able to produce antibodies to fight the bacteria that are present in the body. These will reproduce and develop further, so the disease can be very dangerous and attack other organs. The antibiotics will kill the bacteria.

Not all antibiotics will work in the treatment of CSD. For instance, penicillin and other similar antibiotics will not have any effect on patients with CSD, as the Bartonella henselae bacteria are known to be resistant to these types of antibiotics.

The best antibiotics for treating CSD include:

  • Trimethoprim sulfamethazole
  • Gentamicin
  • Rifampin
  • Ciprofloxacin

The treatment will be prescribed after consulting the patient and establishing the most suitable antibiotic. The treatment will be administered for 10 to 21 days, as established by the doctor.

Side Effects of Antibiotic Treatment

Patients that receive antibiotic treatment for cat scratch disease may experience a number of side effects such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Secondary infections (most commonly yeast infections)
  • Skin rashes, if the patient is allergic to the treatment