Babesiosis as a Cause of Atraumatic Splenic Injury: Two Case Reports and a Review of Literature

J Gen Intern Med. 2021 Dec;36(12):3869-3874. doi: 10.1007/s11606-021-07117-5. Epub 2021 Sep 21.

Abstract

We present two cases of Babesia-induced splenic injury at a single institution. In the late summer, two patients presented with left-sided abdominal pain radiating to the shoulder. They were both found to have hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, and acute splenic infarction on imaging. Blood smears showed intracellular ring forms consistent with Babesia spp. and low parasitemia (<1%). Diagnosis was confirmed by PCR for Babesia microti. Both patients improved with azithromycin and atovaquone, without blood products or surgical intervention. Several weeks following treatment, repeat blood smears revealed no parasites. Splenic infarct and hemorrhage have been previously reported as rare complications of babesiosis. However, given the steady rise in Babesia microti cases in the USA, even these rare complications will become more prevalent. We review both the diagnosis and management of Babesia-induced splenic complications, which can be challenging in patients with low-level parasitemia. Clinicians should consider babesiosis as a cause of atraumatic splenic injury.