Co-infections: Babesia

Babesia is caused by a protozoan, closely related to the protozoan that causes malaria.

Symptoms

At onset of Lyme (8 days or more after tick bite):
__ High fever and chills in some patients

Later:

 __ Severe fatigue
 __ Global headaches, like a hat is too tight
 __ Body aches, muscle pain
 __ Fevers of up to 104 degrees
 __ Chills, sweats, especially night sweats
 __ Eye pain
 __ Breathing problems,  “air hunger”
 __ Occasional dry cough
 __ Poor balance
 __ Encephalopathy
 __ Hemolytic anemia
 __ Hypercoagulation

Facts about Babesia:

  • Babesia & malaria are both caused by protozoans that reproduce inside red blood cells and destroy them.
  • A very common co-infection with Lyme.
  • Many members of our Lyme Association have babesia.
  • Nationally reportable as of January, 2011.
  • Found in cattle in Miami County, Kansas forty years ago.
  • Not known to affect humans in this area of the country until recently.

Babesia Blood Smear

Babesia Blood Smear

A blood smear can show protozoans in red blood cells. However, a person may be ill with only a few red blood cells infected, and there may be none visible in the sample being viewed.

A negative test does not rule out babesia.

Babesia and Lyme

  • A combination of babesia and Lyme makes both diseases much worse.
  • Both diseases suppress the immune system and make it more difficult to recover.
  • Babesia enables the Lyme bacteria to survive Lyme treatment.
  • Lyme disease spirochetes cycle and cause a Herx every 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Babesia cycles every 4 to 6 days.

Babesia Blood Trasnfusion Risks

  • Many people infected are healthy and don’t know they carry babesia.
  • Babesia is unknowingly being transmitted through blood transfusions.
  • At least 9 people in the U.S. have died after receiving babesia-infected blood.
  • There are no tests to screen donated blood for babesia.
  • CDC recommends babesia patients not donate blood.
  • Wise for people who get a lot of tick bites to refrain from donating blood.
  • Lyme disease can also survive in stored blood, as can agents of some other tick-borne diseases.

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