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Babesiosis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Complications

Sep 01, 2023

Babesiosis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Complications

Babesiosis is a condition brought on by many species (types) of the parasite Babesia. It can be acquired either by organ transplantation or through the bite of infected black-legged ticks.

Babesiosis typically manifests as flu-like symptoms. However, if your immune system is weakened then the destruction of red blood cells due to parasites could lead to potentially lethal complications. A common adverse consequence is hemolytic anemia, which occurs when red blood cells are lost more quickly than they can be replenished.

Causes Of Babesiosis

Several types of Babesia parasites cause babesiosis. Babesia are protozoa, one-celled organisms that require a microscope to be seen. Through a tick bite, they enter your blood. Your red blood cells are contaminated and killed there. This may make you feel exhausted in mild circumstances.

 The infection may cause problems that are lethal in severe cases, such as when you have a compromised immune system. The most typical cause of symptomatic babesiosis in the United States is B. microti. The Babesia species B. duncani, B. divergens, B. venatorum, and B. crassa are also occasionally contagious.

Signs And Symptoms Of Babesiosis

Babesiosis symptoms begin one to four weeks after exposure. They incorporate:

  • Very high fever
  • Fatigue, or feeling worn out
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Aches in the joints or muscles
  • A decrease in appetite
  • Cough

Most of the persons with babesiosis are asymptomatic. It typically doesn't result in a rash, unlike other tick-borne infections.

Signs of severe babesiosis

Additional signs and symptoms of severe babesiosis include:

  • Jaundice causes skin or eyes to appear yellow.
  • Pallor, or pallid skin.
  • Urine that is dark in color.
  • Dyspnea, a shortness of breath.
  • Vomiting and nauseous.
  • Discomfort in the abdomen.
  • Stiffness in the neck.
  • Extreme emotional reactions or sudden mood swings (emotional lability or PBA)

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Diagnosis Of Babesiosis

Babesiosis can be identified through blood tests. Your doctor will conduct a physical examination and ask you about your symptoms and medical history. Even if you don't remember being bitten, tell them if you have lately (within the past three weeks) visited a location where a tick may have bitten you. It's also critical for them to understand if you recently obtained a blood transfusion.

Your doctor will order tests to check for parasites in your blood if they suspect you may have babesiosis. They'll also rule out any conditions that could be causing the same symptoms.

Treatment Of Babesiosis

Babesiosis can be managed by your healthcare provider using a variety of drugs. Antiprotozoals, antibiotics, and antimalarial medicines fall under this category. You might receive them as pills or a liquid to swallow, or they might administer them to you via an IV in your arm.

If you have a severe illness, you could need further care, like a blood transfusion.

Prescription drugs for babesiosis

Your doctor may prescribe a mix of these drugs to treat you:

  • Atovaquone.
  • Azithromycin.
  • Clindamycin.
  • Quinine.

If you are suffering from serious illness then the doctor might suggest the following methods:

  • Blood donation. Your healthcare provider may administer blood from a donor to you if you have insufficient red blood cells.
  • Exchange transfusion. Your doctor might administer an exchange transfusion if the level of parasites in your blood is particularly high. Some of your blood is gradually removed throughout this process and replaced with donor blood.
  • Mechanical air conditioning. If you are facing trouble breathing by your own then doctor may suggest mechanical ventilation to support breathing.
  • Dialysis. If your kidneys aren't functioning properly, dialysis takes over.

Prevention Of Babesiosis

The best way to prevent babesiosis if you reside in or are visiting an area where it exists is to avoid tick bites. Among the specific steps you can take to lower your risk of tick bites are:

  • Maintain a 5-inch or less grass height. Ticks wait in the tall grass for a host to bite.
  • In wooded areas, stay on paths that have been cleared.
  • Use tick-repellent bug sprays, which are typically those containing DEET.
  • Cover as much of your skin as you can with clothing while you're near trees or long grass. If you frequently visit tick-infested areas, you can purchase clothing that has already been treated to repel ticks.
  • Once you've been outside during the warm months, check yourself for ticks. If at all possible, ask someone else to check your back and scalp, which you can't see yourself.
  • Consult a veterinarian about how can you keep your pets free from ticks. On a regular basis, especially after they have been outside, check your dogs for ticks.
  • If you discover a tick on you, remove it securely by following the instructions.

Complications Of Babesiosis

Babesiosis can result in potentially fatal complications, particularly if your immune system is already compromised. They consist of:

  • Hemolytic anemia. Your body cannot produce enough new blood cells to quickly replace those destroyed by parasites. Heart problems and heart failure may result from this.
  • Hepatomegaly or splenomegaly- A spleen rupture may result from splenomegaly.
  • Lung swelling caused by fluid (pulmonary edema). Breathing may become difficult as a result, which may cause respiratory or cardiac failure.
  • Diffused intravascular coagulation. DIC is an issue with the way your blood clots. Hemorrhage (uncontrollable bleeding) may result from it.
  • Failure and harm to other organs. This involves liver failure and acute kidney damage (renal failure).

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