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, 3 (1), 45-51

Babesiosis Diagnosis and Treatment


Babesiosis Diagnosis and Treatment

Peter J Krause. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis.


Human babesiosis due to Babesia microti is an emerging malaria-like infection that is endemic in parts of the northeastern and northcentral United States. The clinical manifestations of babesiosis range from subclinical illness to fulminant disease resulting in death. Prompt and accurate diagnosis is difficult because the signs and symptoms are non-specific. A CBC is a useful screening test since anemia and thrombocytopenia are commonly observed and parasites may be visualized on blood smear. Conclusive diagnosis of this disease generally depends upon microscopic examination of thin blood smears. Babesia frequently are overlooked, however, because parasitemia tends to be sparse, often infecting fewer than 1% of erythrocytes early in the course of the illness. Identification of amplifiable babesial DNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has comparable sensitivity and specificity to microscopic analysis of thin blood smear for detection of babesia in blood. Serologic testing provides useful supplementary evidence of infection because a robust antibody response characterizes human babesial infection, even at the time that parasitemia first becomes detectable. The currently recommended therapy for babesiosis is a 7-10-day course of clindamycin (600 mg every 6 h) and quinine (650 mg every 8 h). Recently, azithromycin (500-600 mg on day 1, and 250-600 mg on subsequent days) and atovaquone (750 mg every 12 h) was found to be equally effective in treating adults experiencing babesiosis. This combination also was associated with fewer adverse reactions than clindamycin and quinine. Exchange transfusion is a potentially life-saving therapy for patients suffering from severe disease with high parasitemia (>5%), significant hemolysis, or renal or pulmonary compromise. Babesiosis may be prevented by avoiding areas such as tall grass and brush where ticks, deer, and mice are known to thrive.

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