Babesiosis

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Micrograph of red blood cells with dark circles inside.
In this blood smear from a patient with babesiosis, Babesia parasites can be observed in the red blood cells. (credit: modification of work by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

OpenStax Microbiology

Babesiosis is a rare zoonotic infectious disease caused by Babesia spp. These parasitic protozoans infect various wild and domestic animals and can be transmitted to humans by black-legged Ixodes ticks. In humans, Babesia infect red blood cells and replicate inside the cell until it ruptures. The Babesia released from the ruptured red blood cell continue the growth cycle by invading other red blood cells. Patients may be asymptomatic, but those who do have symptoms often initially experience malaise, fatigue, chills, fever, headache, myalgia, and arthralgia. In rare cases, particularly in asplenic (absence of the spleen) patients, the elderly, and patients with AIDS, babesiosis may resemble falciparum malaria, with high fever, hemolytic anemia, hemoglobinuria (hemoglobin or blood in urine), jaundice, and renal failure, and the infection can be fatal. Previously acquired asymptomatic Babesia infection may become symptomatic if a splenectomy is performed.

Diagnosis is based mainly on the microscopic observation of parasites in blood smears. Serologic and antibody detection by IFA can also be performed and PCR-based tests are available. Many people do not require clinical intervention for Babesia infections, however, serious infections can be cleared with a combination of atovaquone  and azithromycin or a combination of clindamycin and quinine.

Source:

Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology


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