Babesiosis is a rare infectious disease caused by a single-celled microorganism belonging to the Babesia family. It is believed that the Babesia bacteria are usually carried and transmitted by ticks. Babesiosis occurs primarily in animals; however, in rare cases, babesiosis infection may occur in humans. Human babesiosis infection may cause; fever, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, and/or muscle aches. Symptoms may be mild in otherwise healthy people; in addition, some infected individuals may exhibit no symptoms (asymptomatic). However, a severe form of babesiosis, which may be life-threatening if untreated, may occur in individuals who have had their spleens removed or who have an impaired immune system.
Lyme disease was first recognized in 1975 as a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. There are different co-infections of Lyme disease and one of them is Babesiosis, which causes an infection of a person’s red blood cells. Babesia is considered as the second most common blood parasite of mammals. They mainly impact the health of mammals and cattle is considered the most prevalent host.
The disease occurs primarily on the coastal islands, primarily in New England and New York. Due to the fact that ticks are the primary reason for causing Lyme disease, the risk is considerably high during the months of June and July when ticks are most populous. Ticks are small, blood-sucking arachnids which multiply in large numbers. Babesia is spread to humans through the bite of the tick , also called the “blacklegged deer tick“. A tick picks up the parasites while they feed on a mouse or another animal and then pass the bacteria on to humans by biting them. Once in the bloodstream, Babesia enters a red blood cell, reproduces within the cell, and destroys the host cell, causing Hemolytic anemia (red blood cells die and are removed from the blood stream before their life cycle is over) and fever, symptoms similar to malaria.
Babesiosis infection in humans will gradually develop fatigue, followed by a fever. The further result of infection is Hemolytic anemia, where red blood cells are destroyed and removed. The most common symptoms are as following:
- Loss of appetite
- Drenching amounts of sweat
- Muscle pain
- Blood in urine (rare)
Babesiosis can be diagnosed via blood tests. The presence of Babesia within the red blood cells shows that the person is positive for the infection. The blood can also be checked for the presence of antibodies to the parasite.
In mild-to-moderate Babesiosis, the treatment of choice is a combination of Atovaquone and Azithromycin. This regimen is preferred to other treatment options because of having less side effects. In very serious cases, Babesiosis is treated with a combination of Clindamycin (Cleocin) and Quinine. Clindamycin is given by injection and Quinine is given orally three to four times a day for four to seven days continuously. Severely ill patients have been treated with blood transfusions.
The major concern to have is to avoid exposure to ticks, as they are the primary reason and source of the disease. One should avoid walking through the woods, tall grasses. One can also wear long sleeves and tucking pant legs into socks, wearing insect repellent clothes and should check for ticks after an outing. If you find any, then remove a tick soon as possible, gently with tweezers.
Blood smears may be examined under a microscope to try to identify the parasite inside red blood cells, however this method is reliable only within the first two weeks of the infection. Commercial tests currently work for only three species of Babesia, and there are likely many species yet to be discovered. The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test can detect Babesia DNA in the blood. The FISH (Fluorescent In-Situ Hybridization) assay can detect the ribosomal RNA of Babesia in thin blood smears. The patient’s blood can also be tested for antibodies to Babesia antibodies. It may be necessary to run several different tests and negative results should not be used to rule out treatment.
Courtesy Of: LymeDisease.org
Lyme Disease Foundation
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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