UPDATE 2011- Babesia duncani (aka WA1) is normally described in patients on the west coast (USA). Doctors have also been testing east coast patients and finding they are infected with the B. duncani strain, often in addition to being infected with the Babesia microti strain. The Babesia duncani strain can not be detected on the standard Babesia microti tests. Your doctor should order both the Babesia duncani test along with the Babesia microti test if Babesiosis is suspected.
General Information: Many Lyme disease patients have one or more tick borne co-infections. In addition to the Lyme infection, patients can also be infected with tick-borne mycoplasma, a rickettsia and/or a protozoa. One study indicates over 1/2 of the Babesiosis patients also have Lyme disease.
Symptoms: The parasite that causes Babesiosis destroys red blood cells and can cause a malaria-like (relapsing) illness which can be fatal (10%- 28% fatality rate). Symptoms can include dizziness, depression, fever, chills, waves of sweats, mood swings, drenching night sweats, feelings of being off-balance, muscle pains, breathing difficulties (air hunger), sensitivity to light, headaches and malaise.
Patients with Babesiosis may also experience episodes of vomiting, bleeding tendencies, acute respiratory distress syndrome, dark colored urine (blood in urine), anemia, swollen spleen (can rupture in some cases), enlarged liver, congestive heart failure, respiratory failure, renal failure, bruising, jaundice, pulmonary edema, myocardial infarction, anorexia, evidence of shock and encephalopathy. Symptoms may range from mild to severe.
Testing: Many doctors familiar with babesiosis will diagnose and treat based on history and symptoms due to the failure of many tests to detect the infection, especially the longer the person has been infected. Antibody tests from Quest Lab (multiple strains) and PCR tests for babesiosis can be useful if positive, but a negative result does not rule out the disease. The organism is rarely seen in blood smears. Testing can be done at IGeneX Lab or other labs.
Treatment: A combination of Atovaquone (Mepron) and Zithromax or Baixin is currently being used to treat Babesiosis.** This combination is reported to have less potential side effects than quinine and clindamyacin.
Re-treatment or long term treatment is often needed in chronic and long-standing cases. Patients may experience a worsening of the condition and symptoms while treating Babesiosis (reported in some to be on the 3-4 day, and then again at the 3-4 week mark). Once this occurs, they will enter into a recovery phase.
** Please see the Babesiosis treatment youtube video [Dr. Horowitz] by clicking here.
Babesia Infecting Blood Cells
There are more than 100 known species of Babesia that can infect various small mammals, primates, rats and gerbils. The first Babesia species was discovered in 1888 by Victor Babes, a Hungarian pathologist in whose honor the organisms were subsequently named.
Researchers continue to describe new babesial species affecting humans, such as MO1, which was associated with the first reported case of Babesiosis acquired in the state of Missouri. WA1, first described in Washington state, is being detected in a growing number of east coast patients. The standard serology for Babesia microti will not detect these species and health care professionals should order tests for multiple strains.
If Babesiosis is suspected, treatment should begin immediately to prevent the worsening of symptoms.
After an infectious tick bite (organisms found in salivary glands of ticks), Babesia parasites invade red blood cells. Transfusion-associated babesiosis has also been described and has caused severe illness and death in a growing number of patients.
After a transfusion with infected blood, the incubation period can be up to nine weeks. The risk factors for the recipient have included donors who have had exposure in endemic areas. Additionally, transplacental and perinatal transmission have both been reported in the literature.
The typical incubation period of Babesiosis varies from 5 to 33 days; however, most patients do not recall tick exposure. The correlation between the level of the serology titer and the severity of symptoms is poor, and tests may be false-negative in many cases.
Recommended Books- Dr. James Schaller has graciously offered to share some of his excellent Babesia books online **for free** for educational purposes. To download a free copy- http://www.personalconsult.com/free/books.html
To purchase a copy of the Health Care Professional's Guide Book to the Treatment and Diagnosis of Human Babesiosis
Please see subpages below or more information.