Babesiosis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis

What Is Babesiosis?

Babesiosis is a parasitic infection that is caused by a parasite named Babesia. This parasite infects the red blood cells of humans and is normally transmitted by a tick bite. It is worth noting here that the tick that causes Lyme disease is the same tick that causes Babesiosis.

The symptoms caused by Babesiosis are significantly variable with some people experiencing no symptoms at all and other experiencing severe symptoms to include severe pain and other symptoms similar to flu. In some cases potentially life threatening complications can be caused as a result of Babesiosis.

What Is Babesiosis?

What Causes Babesiosis?

As stated, Babesiosis is caused by a parasite named Babesia. This parasite resides and reproduces in the red blood cells of the infected individual which results in the development of intense pain which is a characteristic feature of this condition.

There are many varieties of the Babesia parasite but the species that infects humans across United States is the Babesia microti type of parasite. These parasites are normally found in the stomach of a deer tick.

This tick attaches itself to small animals like rodents in forests and thrives on their blood. Once they have fed on the blood of the rodents, they fall off and can lie on a blade of grass, tip of leaves, or a low branch of a tree from where they can attach themselves on humans in their shirts, shoes, or other clothing.

They then start moving upwards till they find open skin surface through which they enter the body of the humans. The tick bite is so small that it may not be visible to the infected individual until after the symptoms begin to become evident. Additionally, contaminated blood transfusion can also result in the development of Babesiosis.

What Are The Symptoms of Babesiosis?

Some of the symptoms of Babesiosis include:

  • Severe fatigue.
  • Persistent intense headaches.
  • Pain in the muscles and joints.
  • Pain in the abdominal areas.
  • Nausea.
  • Bruising of the skin around the area of the tick bite.
  • Yellowish tinge to the skin and eyes.
  • Frequent mood changes.
  • Hyper-perfusion, difficulty breathing and pain in the hip joints may develop as the condition advances.

If this condition remains undiagnosed or is left untreated it may lead to following significant complications to include:

  • Severe hypotension.
  • Abnormalities with functioning of the liver.
  • Development of hemolytic anemia
  • Kidney failure as a result of Babesiosis

How Is Babesiosis Diagnosed?

Babesiosis is a condition which is quite difficult to diagnose as the symptoms mimic symptoms of various other conditions. However, when the patient presents with the symptoms mentioned above and gives a history of being outdoors in forest areas camping recently then a diagnosis of a tick bite is clearly indicated.

This is when the physician may perform a blood test which will reveal presence of Babesia parasite. However, this test needs to be done within the first two weeks of the exposure to tick bites which is not always the case. Additionally, if Babesiosis is suspected a fluorescent antibody test may be performed of the blood sample to confirm the diagnosis of Babesiosis.

How Is Babesiosis Treated?

Since Babesiosis is a parasitic infection it will not respond just to antibiotics alone. The patient will be given antiparasitic medications along with an antibiotic for treatment of Babesiosis. For more severe cases stronger antibiotics and antiparasitic agents will be used like Clindamycin along with quinine for treatment of Babesiosis.

The treatment course is for about two weeks before the individual can be said to be completely treated from Babesiosis. The recurrence rate for Babesiosis is quite high and if the individual gets the symptoms again then he or she needs to be treated again for Babesiosis.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 5, 2018

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