Babesiosis

Babesiosis

Babesiosis is a disease caused by a protozoan of the genus Babesia, a strain of Apicomplexa. It is therefore a parasite related to the agent of malaria. Babesia causes disease in animals and humans, although it should be noted that it is relatively rare in humans. This may be partly due to the fact that half of the infected children and a quarter of the infected adults develop the disease asymptomatically. This is different in very young or very old people and immunocompromised people, such as cancer patients or patients without spleen and HIV positive. In these cases, babesiosis can result in death. Our company focuses on the diagnosis of babesiosis in humans and dogs.

Human babesiosis

Depending on the patient's state of health, the illness may be both banal and fatal. The incubation period of the disease is 1-4 weeks after the tick attachment, or 1-9 weeks in the case of transmission through blood transfusion. When infected, the parasite penetrates into the red blood cells of the host where it survives and multiplies. Common symptoms are fatigue, fever, sweating and chills. At the laboratory level, it is hemolytic anemia and platelet loss. Uncommon symptoms are headache, muscle and joint pain, dry mouth and dry cough, nausea and vomiting, weight loss, abdominal pain, conjunctivitis, corneal involvement, photophobia, emotional lability, depression, hyperesthesia, enlarged spleen and liver, jaundice, loss of neutrophils in the blood. Symptoms can last from several days to several months. In severe cases, babesiosis is reminiscent of malaria and may result in organ failure and respiratory arrest.

Babesiosis in the vast majority of cases is asymptomatic, or symptoms resembles common flu, therefore most often not diagnosed at all. Moreover, only specialized laboratories can correctly identify babesiosis. In any case, diagnosis is possible either by microscopy (characteristic Maltese cross shape in red blood cells stained with Giemza), serologically by detection of IgG and IgM antibodies, or by PCR reaction with Babesia specific primers.

A combination of clindamycin and quinine or atovaquone and azithromycin is used for treatment. In life-threatening cases, infected red blood cells are removed from the patient's body and replaced by transfusing new non-infected cells.

In humans in Europe, the carrier of babesiosis is the tick, Ixodes ricinus. It transmits Babesia divergens and probably Babesia venatorum. North American species Babesia microti may occur rarely, and the vector of this species is unknown in Europe. However, it is probably also the tick Ixodes ricinus. Due to the same vector, babesiosis in humans may be accompanied by infection with Borrelia spirochetes, causing Lyme disease.

Babesiosis in dogs

The manifestations of the disease are different and have different strength, as in humans. However, the most common is acute severe babesiosis, the typical symptoms of which are: dark urine, fever, weakness, depression, swollen lymph nodes and enlarged spleen.

Babesiosis is accompanied by bilirubinuria, thrombocytopenia, hypoalbuminemia, and anemia in dogs. If these clinical symptoms occur, the veterinarian examines the blood smear most often stained with eosin and methylene blue. Babesia is seen in the red blood cells.

In dogs, imizole therapy is indicated for babesiosis. Sometimes “human” treatment is also possible.

Dogs in Europe have a much more diverse portfolio of babesias, which infect them. It is mainly Babesia canis transmitted by tick Dermacentor reticulatus, Babesia vogeli transmitted by tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus, Babesia gibsoni transmitted probably also Rhipicephalus sanguineus, Babesia vulpes and Babesia annae transmitted probably by ticks Ixodes hexagonus and Ixodes canisuga.