A. People with Babesiosis sometimes have no symptoms at all. However, it can be life-threatening for someone with a suppressed immune system. It is also more serious for people over age 50. Symptoms are often the same as for Lyme disease (see list in the back of this booklet), but there may also be a very high fever of up to 104°F, and anemia. Drenching night sweats, chills, severe headaches, fatigue, “air hunger,” and sleep disturbances are common. You can get Babesiosis from a blood transfusion from an infected donor.
Basics – Babesiosis
A. There are blood tests, but the test reliability declines a few weeks after infection. These tests suffer from the same lack of sensitivity that plagues Lyme disease testing. PCR tests for Babesiosis can be useful if positive, but a negative result does not rule out the disease. Examining the red blood cells under a microscope may reveal the parasites, but few diagnostic laboratories are skilled at the tedious job of carefully observing the blood cells.
A. It is important to remember that Babesiosis is caused by a protozoan parasite and not by a bacterium, so antibiotics alone will not cure this disease. Many people appear to recover without treatment, but the disease may flare up later. Since Babesiosis is closely related to malaria, anti-malarial drugs are used to treat it. Usually an atovoquone drug like Mepron or Malarone is used along with an antibiotic such as azithromycin; the combination increases the effectiveness of the treatment. As with most tick-borne diseases, you do not develop any immunity after infection and you can get Babesiosis over and over.