Photo- Babesia Organism Inside A Red Blood Cell
People can be infected with more than one tick borne disease organism. One study indicates over half of the Babesiosis patients also have Lyme disease. Hunters, fishermen, park employees, farmers and those spending a lot of time outdoors are more at risk for contracting the disease.
People can have Babesiosis (over 100 known species) and not realize it if symptoms are mild and fleeting. Often though, there can be a sudden onset of symptoms- coming, as described by patients, from "out of no-where".
UPDATE- 12/28/18- Several studies have supported the literature stating ARDS- Accute Respiratory Distress Syndrome- can be linked to Babesiosis.
In a 1984 study a transfusion induced Babesiosis/ARDS patient died from the condition.
It was also reported in a 2017 study that the "degree of lung injury was severe in the majority, and multi-organ dysfunction was the norm."
Of special note in the 2018 study- "ARDS often followed the initiation of anti-babesia drug therapy". This is reminiscent of what many patients have been reporting for years as part of a severe herx-like reaction.
ARDS has been described multiple times in the scientific literature. Abstracts listed here.
UPDATE- Babesia duncani (aka WA1) has been detected in patients on the west coast (USA) where it was first discovered. However, doctors have been finding WA1 infected patients across the USA and overseas. Some of these patients are also infected with the Babesia microti and other strains.
BOTH strains need to be considered when ordering tests. Babesia duncani is NOT detected using the standard Babesia microti tests. Doctors should initiate treatment immediately and order both the Babesia duncani test along with the Babesia microti test if Babesiosis is suspected. (See testing information below.)
UPDATE- 9/12/14 In Maryland, the WA1 strain (Babesia duncani) is being detected in human patients approximately 5 times more often than the B. microti strain.
Exposure to several species of infected ticks is the most common way to contract Babesiosis.
Babesiosis is also known to be transmitted by infected donors to those who have received a blood transfusion or organ transplant. Beginning in the early 1980s, cases of transfusion-transmitted Babesiosis were reported sporadically, but cases have steadily increased in frequency over the past 30 years, with at least 12 fatalities in transfusion recipients diagnosed with Babesiosis.
Babesiosis has also been shown to be transmitted transplacentally or perinatally. Infected infants have developed Babesiosis at 26 days to 5 weeks of age.
Update September 2018- Watch Babesia organisms enter and leave cells on short video clips in this scientific study. (Certainly read the article, with excellent pictures/charts too, but near the bottom of the page they have a section called... Electronic supplementary material... where you can watch Babesia moving in and out of cells.)
Babesiosis Symptoms: (Some are described by patients in their own words.) The parasite that causes Babesiosis invades and then destroys red blood cells. It can cause a malaria-like (relapsing) illness which can become chronic and/or can be fatal (10%- 28% fatality rate).
Symptoms may appear slowly or have a sudden onset, or may take months to years to fully develop. There can be "flares" of symptoms every four to six days, or on an on/off basis. Symptoms can plateau and return full force at a later time. Many people fear the symptoms will never go away.
Symptoms can include dizziness, depression, acute respiratory distress syndrome, feelings of being off-balance, chronic cough, intermittent fevers, fatigue that worsens with exercise, severe fatigue, nausea, anxiety, chills, non-typical symptoms related to the head, low back pain, appetite swings, waves of sweats at night that can also occur during the day.
Babesia patients may experience de-ja-vu feelings, mood swings, vision and focusing disturbances and/or eye orbit problems, soreness or pain on the top of the head, sensitivity to light, "weird" feelings (confusion, panic, jittery, nauseated, "got to get out of here" thoughts, light-headed, claustrophobia, etc.) especially in areas with florescent lighting (malls, hospitals, stores, offices, etc.).
There can be disturbances in autonomic nervous system, vasculitis, concusion-like symptoms, an overstimulation of the brain, enhanced senses (everything is more intense), headaches (often pressure headaches- often behind the eyes- can feel like head is in a vise), focal vasculitis, exaggerated startle responses and headaches that feel like you are experiencing moving sensations.
Malaise, feeling "unstable", personality changes, feeling as if in a "fog", numb spots on head, drenching night sweats, delayed responses to questions, memory and cognitive disorders, muscle pains, irritability, temperature intolerance, racing heart and/or irregular heart beat (often worse at night) and breathing difficulties (air hunger- need to sigh and take a deep breath) are possible symptoms.
Patients with Babesiosis may also experience orthostatic hypotension, various uncomfortable feelings, episodes of vomiting, suicidal thoughts, panic disorder, hypercoaguable states (thick blood), mild to very severe insomnia and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
They may have wrist and hand pain, dehydration or swelling, pain in feet/ankles, bleeding tendencies, acute respiratory distress syndrome, severe fluctuation of temperature, unexplained weight gain or loss, dark colored urine (blood in urine), anemia, swollen spleen (can rupture in some cases), enlarged liver, attention deficit disorder (ADD), vivid dreams and nightmares, congestive heart failure, respiratory failure, renal failure, bruising, jaundice, pulmonary edema, myocardial infarction, anorexia, evidence of shock and encephalopathy.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe. They can limit a persons ability to do everyday chores, their jobs and they can negatively affect their life in general. Driving, playing sports, operating machinery, walking a straight line, grocery shopping, attending family functions, being in a room with more than one person speaking and even cooking a meal may become difficult, if not impossible.
Some feel Babesiosis is more dangerous than Lyme disease. To see more information on symptoms, please refer to Dr. James Schaller’s Checklists for Bartonella, Babesia and Lyme Disease by clicking here.
Most doctors are not familiar with the diagnosis, wide range of symptoms or treatment of Babesiosis (and they really SHOULD be). To find a health care professional educated in diagnosing and treating Babesiosis and other tick borne diseases please go to www.LymeDoc.org for lists of professionals by state.
A specialty field of medical professionals, chiropractic neurologists, have been helpful for many people when addressing the symptoms of Babesiosis. They can help relieve the "off-balance" feelings and other neuro-brain related symptoms. To find a chiropractic neurologist in your area see the "Alternative" page at www.LymeDoc.org
*Update- Supplementation with glutathione and glutamine can increase the number of Babesia parasites and if used it should be started slowly to prevent a sudden increase in symptoms and anxiety.
*Update- Babesia can be found in biofilms. Source
*Update- Chronic Babesia infections can cause multiple symptoms and enhance the severity of Lyme, but patients may not present with detectable hemolysis (rupture or destruction of red blood cells). In more severe infections there is persistent, but very low grade hemolysis which can lead to iron deficiency over time. Think of Babesiosis for an iron-deficient patient with no obvious sources of blood loss.
*Update- Babesia infections can raise carbon monoxide levels which in turn can add to or even cause environmental sensitivities. This is an often overlooked clue to the presence of this bug.
Babesia Testing: Babesia tests, like Lyme tests, are unable to detect the infection in all patients. Therefore, you should treat the patient, not the test. Many experienced doctors will diagnose and treat patients based on exposure, history and symptoms due to the failure of many tests to detect the infection.
Note that standard blood smears are only sensitive for diagnosis during the first two weeks of infection.
There has been an increasing number of additional Babesia and Babesia-like agents discovered in the United States, Europe and Asia, including CA-1, MO-1, EU-1, KO-1, and TW-1.
The Babesia organism is rarely detected in blood smears.
It is recommended doctors run multiple tests to improve the chance of detecting a Babesia infection. Antibody tests from Quest Lab (includes two strains) and PCR tests from IGeneX Lab in CA for Babesiosis are useful if positive, but a negative result does not rule out the disease.
Try to have blood drawn for testing early in the week so it is not delayed in transport and does not sit in the lab or elsewhere over the weekend.
Some advanced experts use indirect laboratory testing such as VEGF, TNF-a, IL-6, IL-1B, ECP, and sudden drops in MSH (LabCorp) or natural killer cell numbers such as CD57, CD56, CD3 and CD4 in response to a malaria or Babesia medication.
Some feel increased symptoms caused by patients being prescribed low doses of pure Babesia medications is highly suspicious for Babesia.
If someone has an "out-of-range" RDW reading (red-cell distribution width) on a standard CBC blood test, Babesiosis should be suspected.
Babesia Treatment: A combination of Atovaquone/Mepron, 2-4 teaspoons per day (1-2 teaspoons, 2x per day) with Zithromax or Biaxin, is a common treatment for Babesiosis. This combination is reported to have less serious side effects than quinine and clindamyacin.
Eating fatty foods (bacon, ice cream, etc) while taking Mepron has been reported to increase absorption of the drug.
Some experts feel for Mepron to work you have to push the dose- 1 teaspoon for 5 months minimum (some say 9 months minimum)- and it must be taken with a large amount of fat. In absorption studies the test subjects had 23g of fat with each dose. Healthy fats could be yogurt, cheese, or 2 tablespoons of olive oil on a salad. (Personally I like ice cream and bacon which I don't normally get to eat otherwise.)
Artemesinin SOD (Researched Nutritionals) can be used, but as with all artemesia products there must be a regular break in treatment- typically 3 weeks on and one week off.
The cost to treat Babesiosis with Mepron/Zithromax can range from approximately $1,800- $3,600 per month. If you have little or no insurance and have a modest net income, $30,000 as a single person or $40,000 as a couple, or less, you may qualify for free Mepron or Malarone through the Bridges to Access program. You can learn more about the program by clicking here.
Recently a generic for Mepron came on the market. Prices vary greatly so please contact different sources to determine the best prices. Patients have reported the ITunes App has been helpful in locating pharmacies in their area with the lowest prices. To learn more about the App, click here.
The duration of treatment has recently been increased to a minimum of 5 months, often requiring 9 months to eradicate the organisms in early cases. In some patients recovery was not seen until five years into treatment and relapses are fairly common.
*Update- June 2015- a recent report from Australia provided a possible reason for the relapses or recurrences of the disease (in animals) ... "parasitised erythrocytes were few or undetectable in peripheral blood samples but were sequestered in large numbers within small vessels of visceral organs, particularly in the kidney and brain, associated with distinctive clusters of extraerythrocytic organisms."
*Update- September 2016- Study showing Babesia parasites are NOT cleared by red blood cell exchange. Link Here.
Medications such as Coartem, Malarone and Artesunate are also used to treat Babesiosis in some cases, especially when patients develop Mepron resistance or have a strain that does not respond.
Some physicians feel other anti-malarials or antibiotics may play a role in removing residual Babesia, and others feel improvements are seen once Lyme is being killed.
Loading doses with some medications can cause severe symptoms in the beginning of treatment and this method is not advised. Instead, starting with low doses may allow less debris and less added inflammation. The doses can be raised as the negative effects disappear.
>>> WARNING- MEPRON BLUES <<<
This is a condition that often occurs after starting treatment for Babesiosis and can continue or come and go during treatment (sometimes on a 3 week to monthly basis). Patient can suddenly become severely depressed, even suicidal.
Additionally, symptoms of Babesiosis can at first increase many times over rather than decrease as would typically be expected.
It is important to know IT WILL GO AWAY & YOU WILL GET BETTER!
Some of the terms used by patients to describe what has been dubbed the "Mepron Blues"...
Depression- can be deep and dark
Down feelings and sadness
Wanting to die
Extreme flares of pain
Flares of current symptoms
Not feeling like yourself
Dragging around trying to accomplish anything
Crying all the time
Wanting to just lay in bed
Make the world go away
Feelings of doom
Out of touch
Out of body feeling
Not in touch with self
If you experience any of these symptoms please contact your doctor. If you are feeling suicidal please contact the Suicide Hotline. Many patients have and reported it really helped!
Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255
Artemisinin has been rejected by all international major malaria organizations as a treatment as of 2014, and was replaced with artesunate in combination with a synthetic anti-malarial medication.
Since Babesia is far harder to kill than malaria, some experts feel using artemisinin, a rejected synthetic form of sweet wormwood or Artemisia that is no longer promoted in malaria care, is unwise. Babesia relapses are fairly common, but do not appear to be caused by a slime protective layer coating the organisms, which is commonly found in bacteria and fungal infections.
In summary, artemisinin is reported to not be as affective as other treatments and can still (rarely) produce some severe side effects. However, if a patient feels worse in the first few days on this medicine, they should inform their doctor. If ear pain is not involved it might be a sign you just killed some Babesia.
Many other medications exist that are proposed to augment the bodies ability to remove Babesia. Some include beta blockers, heparin and perhaps most importantly, quality blood thinners or clot prevention agents-- both natural and synthetic options exist.
Some experts feel Babesia is far more deadly than Lyme disease, and a clot is one way patients are harmed. A TIA, stroke or heart attack in a Lyme patient or someone in a high exposure area should be examined closely for clotting time with a D-Dimer test, PT/PTT and attention to how long you bleed--under one minute is far too fast. Many new lab tests exist to examine clotting function and samples are avaialable at all large national labs.
Cucurmin, an anti-malerial herbal, is reported to improve babesia treatment, and two possible optimal forms may be Enhansa and BCM-95, but we defer this to your health care provider.
Heparin inhibits the growth of babesia and has been shown to eliminate the infection by covering/coating the outer area of red blood cells, preventing the parasites from entering individual cells. (When adrenal function is low, response to treatment can be negatively affected.)
Cryptoleptis is another herbal option that has been noted to help patients who relapse when anti-malerials fail or for those who need milder treatment that can still hinder babesia reproduction and action.
Re-treatment or long term treatment is often needed in chronic or long-standing cases.
PLEASE REMEMBER- Patients may experience a worsening of the symptoms while treating babesiosis (reported in some to be during the first two weeks or later). Once this worsening occurs a few times, the patient should enter into a more stable recovery phase, although with each dose increase you may also notice more symptoms.
SPECIAL NOTE- this worsening is often accompanied by what patients have dubbed the "Mepron Blues", which can be a deepening depression, emotional instability, insomnia, rages, aches and an increase in anxiety levels. More information about the Mepron Blues is above.
After an infectious tick bite (babesia organisms found in salivary glands and guts of ticks), Babesia parasites invade red 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 Romanian 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. It is unclear where to classify MO-1.
The standard serology for Babesia microti will not detect these species and many other new species and strains in the public genetic data bases. Health care professionals should order tests for multiple strains when available.
PCR testing varies a great deal between labs, and is usually less sensitive than antibody testing. Some practitioners have used 2-3 low dose malaria medications and found the debris of Babesia increases positive PCR or DNA tests for Babesia.
Transfusion-associated Babesiosis, transplacental, perinatal and congenital Babesiosis have also been described and have caused severe illness and death in fetuses and patients.
Dosing for Babesia in children typically starts at 62.5 mg. Mepron. Dr. C
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. Transfusion transmittal is increasing and blood banks have concerns that asymptomatic donors are increasing in numbers.
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.
If Babesiosis is suspected, treatment should begin immediately to prevent the worsening of symptoms and should continue until all symptoms have been cleared.
Congenital Transmission of Babesiosis
2018- "...2 infants with congenital babesiosis born to mothers with prepartum Lyme disease..."
2015- "Four ... of five infants with congenital babesiosis whose neutrophil count was reported were neutropenic."
2010- "Congenital babesiosis in a four-week-old female infant"
2009- "... third congenital case of babesiosis in a 26-day-old infant; transmission was determined on the basis of a blood smear from the infant (15% parasitemia) and serologic results from the infant and mother."
2006- "Neonatal babesiosis: case report and review of the literature"
Recommended Book on Babesia- Dr. James Schaller's Health Care Professional's Guide Book to the Treatment and Diagnosis of Human Babesiosis, which can be purchased online through Amazon.com
Babesiosis diagnosis and treatment ideas in a video featuring Dr. Horowitz can be seen by clicking here.
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Last Update- February 2019Lucy Barnes- AfterTheBite@gmail.com