What is Babesia?

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 weakness, gastrointestinal symptoms, nausea, night sweats, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. As Babesia causes your red blood cells to rupture you will begin getting symptoms 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.

Please also Read:

Links Pertaining to Babesia

Educational Materials on Babesia

If you are doing a Lyme Disease Awareness booth and would like to have some information to display on Babesiosis check out these items below.

Babesia Information Fact Sheet Poster

Babesia Fact Educational Card

Babesia Infiltrating the Blood Supply?

Babesia Symptoms

Bartonella Symptoms


Lyme is not just Lyme

Support Awareness and a Lyme Patient

2 thoughts on “Babesia”

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  2. Babesia is also treated with Flagyl ( metronidazole) in various combinations; as well as with Mepron (atovaquone) typically combined with azithromycin (Zithromax).

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