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Co-infections: Babesia


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

  • 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.


At onset of Lyme (8 days or more after tick bite):

  • High fever and chills in some patients


  •  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

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.

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.

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