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Babesiosis



Babesiosis Definition


Babesiosis is an uncommon, vector-borne, malaria-like disease usually caused by ticks or parasites of the genius “Babesia”. In areas where babesia is common, such as North America, this disease can be transmitted through blood transfusion.


Babesiosis Diagnosis


Since Babesiosis can cause symptoms similar to malaria and other diseases, it can be hard to diagnose because it does not show up on any kind of test. However, once a person suspects Babesiosis, it becomes easier to diagnose. When exposed to endemic areas and develops consistent fever and unexpected anemia, be sure to consult with a health care representative. Babesiosis is diagnosed through direct blood examination with a PCR-based test or serology. Usually, a person with Babesiosis has reduced numbers of red blood cells. In animals around endemic areas, Babesiosis gives the same symptoms as humans – fevers and anemia. It is confirmed when “merozoites” appear on thin film blood smear examined under oil using “Romonovski” stains. This type of exam is commonly done for dogs in Babesiosis-endemic regions. For cerebral babesiosis, diagnosis is confirmed post-mortem through a brain smear and the observation of “eruthrocytes” in the cerebral cortical capillaries.


Babesiosis Symptoms and Signs


Also called “Malaria of the North East”, Babesiosis triggers symptoms very similar to Malaria. For those with mild cases of Babesiosis, they experience anemia (low blood) and mild fever. In serious cases, anemia can become severe and fever can go up to 40°C with chills. Some patients even experience organ failure. Unfortunately, Babesiosis can go unnoticed because it could cause non-specific illnesses and other severe diseases. However, unlike the “Plasmodium parasite” that causes malaria, the parasites of Babesia do not affect the liver. Severe cases of Babesiosis usually occur with the extremes – either extremely young or very old. However, it may also occur in people with other medical conditions, such as spleen cancer or immunodeficiency. Babesiosis may also occur in normal individuals, regardless of age.


Babesiosis Treatment


Almost 50% of Babesiosis cases are resolved without any kind of treatment. However, severe patients are given a two-drug regimen (clindamycin and quinine). Unfortunately, these two drugs are often poorly tolerated. New studies suggest a combination of azithromycin and atovaquone can be just as effective. For extremely serious cases of Babesiosis, patients require exchange transmission – a procedure wherein infected red blood cells are removed then replaced with new ones. For animals with Babesiosis, antibiotics are not advisable. Instead, drugs such as diminazene, trypan blue or imidocarb are used in treating “Babesia Canis Rossi” or “dogs in Africa”, “Babesia Bigemina” (cattle in Southern Africa) and “Babesia boyis”. A vaccine for the dogs in the Mediterranean (Babesia canis canis) is effective. However, this will not work for dogs in Africa or the “babesia canis rossi”. Dogs in Southeast Asia (or “Babesia imitans”) cause a mild form of this disease that usually resolves even without any kind of treatment.


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