Babeisiosis, is a malarial-like protozoan infection. Even thought it was identified as infecting animals such as cattle and horses for hundreds of years, it wasn’t identified in humans until the 1960’s.
Ticks transmit Babesia to humans through a bite. Animals that can also get Babesia include deer, cattle, horses, dogs, cats, and mice. There are over 100 species of Babesia but only a few can cause disease in humans. These are called Babesia microti, Babesia divergens, and Babesia bovis. Whereas B. microti is common in the United States. B. divergens occurs more often in Europe. Humans can also contract Babesia through blood donations.
Babesia tends to stick around for months, with or without effective treatment. If patients have mild, nonspecific symptoms and don’t receive any
Babesia likes red blood cells. Once it enters a red blood cell, the protozoa split in half to form two new protozoa. This splitting continues until there are too many protozoa inside the cell. The cell then bursts and releases the micro-organisms into the blood. Then the released protozoan find new blood cells to enter to further reproduce.
There is an incubation period of one week to eight weeks elapses between the tick bite and the onset of Babesia symptoms. Almost everyone who contracts this disease gets flu-like symptoms of fever and chills. Other symptoms are generalized weakenss, gastrointestinal symptoms, nausea, night sweats, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. As Babesia causes your red blood cells to rupture you will begin getting symtpoms like jaundice, dark urine, shortness of breath, pain in your extremities, and a swollen spleen.
Babesia can last for several months, with or without effective treatment. Evidence has shown that the protozoa can persist in the blood for years, even though the person has no more symptoms.
Ways of Transmission
Bite of ticks
Through Blood Donation
Congenitally, passed from mother to newborn
Many people with Babesia become anemic which should lead the doctor into suspecting it. A peripheral blood smear microscopic exam can reveal the microorganisms inside the red blood cell. If the blood smear does not show Babesia, but the physician strongly suspects babesiosis, more specific blood tests can be done. These tests search for proteins or DNA specific to the protozoa.
Many cases of Babesia are so mild that they are never diagnosed. Symptoms can go away by themselves. In some cases it can be severe or even fatal.
Usually it’s treated with at least two drugs. The most commonly prescribed drug combination is oral quinine (an anti-malarial drug) like Mepron or Malarone, and oral and intravenous Clindamycin (an antibiotic). Alternatively, oral Atovaquone (an anti-protozoan drug) and Azithromycin have also been used to treat Babesia.
Complications may include acute respiratory distress syndrome, severe anemia requiring blood transfusions, disseminated intravascular coagulation, severely low blood pressure, myocardial infarction, renal failure.
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