Babesiosis is the name given to a worldwide infectious disease. It is caused by babesia, which are among the parasites.

What is a babesiosis?

The causes of babesiosis are babesia, which are among the unicellular spurs. The transmission of parasites to humans is done by ticks.
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Babesiosis is a relatively rare infectious disease found throughout the world. They are transmitted by ticks, through which the actual causative agents, the Babesia, enter the human body or animals. These intracellular small parasites, belonging to the genus Babesia, affect the red blood cells (erythrocytes) of the affected persons.

The term babesiosis goes back to the Romanian-born pathologist Victor Babes (1854-1926), who described Babesia in 1888 for the first time when they caused hemoglobinuria in Romanian cattle. The infection resulted in tens of thousands of dead cattle. In 1889, the genus Babesia bigemina was identified by the American pathologist Theobald Smith (1859-1934) as the cause of Texas beef fever. Later he found out that the transmission of the protozoan was by ticks.

It was not until 1956 that the first case of Babesia's disease was recorded in humans. In Yugoslavia, a patient who had no spleen and suffered from a fulminant infection died. As further cases of Babesia were repeated in people who had no spleen, the physicians initially assumed that only for such patients a risk of disease existed.

While the genus Babesia divergens is responsible for diseases in the European continent, Babesia microti usually causes infections in the USA. Overall, babesiosis is one of the rare diseases. It is considered particularly dangerous for people suffering from immunodeficiencies such as AIDS or having to undergo splenectomy. Because the course and symptoms of babesiosis are similar to malaria, the disease is also called the small sister of malaria.

causes

The causes of babesiosis are babesia, which are among the unicellular spurs. The transmission of parasites to humans is carried out by ticks belonging to the genus Ixodes, such as the common wood buck (Ixodes ricinus). This species of ticks is very common in Central Europe. In some cases, however, the transmission of babesia also took place through blood transfusions.

These were infected with the babesia. Thus, there is the danger that people who have suffered from a babiesiosis will still carry the pathogen via a blood donation even after the cure of their illness and pass it on to other people in this way.

For decades it has been erroneously assumed by doctors that babesiosis can only occur in people who have had their spleens surgically removed.

Therefore, people without a spleen are more susceptible to infections. However, over the years, infections were found in people who still had a spleen. Normally, however, there is resistance to Babesia when the spleen is still present.

Like the malaria pathogens, Babesia is one of the protozoa. They affect the red blood cells in the human organism, leading to hemolysis, the expression of which depends on the density of the parasites. Within the erythrocytes the babesia can reproduce asexually. However, there are only two divisions.

Symptoms, complaints & signs

The symptoms of babesiosis are similar to those of malaria. So they stop for a while, then slowly go back and show up later. The incubation period of babesiosis is between one and four weeks.

The typical first signs are loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, feeling unwell and losing weight. After a few days, patients suffer from a continuously high fever, heavy sweats, chills, intense headaches and body aches. In addition, jaundice, severe anemia and even kidney failure are possible.

Diagnosis & History

The diagnosis of babesiosis takes place through the detection of the pathogens. For this purpose, the doctor takes the patient a blood smear, which is then examined microscopically. Within the affected red blood cells, the babesia can be visualized. Due to the high number of pathogens, the diagnosis is not classified as difficult.

As an alternative, it is also possible to grow the parasites. With this method, it is possible to detect infections that often remain undetected in the blood smear due to their low pathogen density. Because of the low number of cases in humans accurate prediction of the course of babesiosis is not possible.

So far no systematic investigations could be carried out. Severe or even fatal cases are rare and mainly affect people whose immune system is weakened.

complications

The complications of babesiosis are similar to the symptoms of malaria. In the worst case, this can also lead to death of the patient if the disease is not treated. Therefore, babesiosis requires immediate medical attention to prevent consequential damage and serious complications.

In most cases there is a very high fever after the transmission of babesiosis. The temperature of the patient can reach up to 42 degrees Celsius and thus rises to a life-threatening condition. In addition to the high fever, it comes to an appetite, fatigue, diarrhea and headache.

Often there is also a strong weight loss, which generally has a negative impact on the health of the body. In addition to these symptoms, there are also inflammations on the skin, which can be painful and spread over the entire body. Here, limbs are paralyzed, so that the patient is severely restricted and in many cases can not move.

The treatment uses antibiotics. These do not lead to any further complaints and the treatment is without complications in most cases.

When should you go to the doctor?

Patients should go to the doctor immediately with a Babesiose. A medical clarification is recommended here already at the first sign of the infectious disease. For example, if you suffer from loss of appetite, nausea or an inexplicable weight loss, you should discuss these symptoms with the family doctor. After a few days, additional fever symptoms indicate an infection that needs to be treated. An immediate visit to the doctor is required if severe symptoms such as jaundice, anemia or kidney failure occur.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, an emergency doctor must be alerted. Although the disease is rarely fatal, follow-up symptoms can only be prevented by rapid treatment. People who suffer from the symptoms of a tick bite should also go to the doctor.

Babesiosis is commonly transmitted by ticks and other parasites. If the symptoms so shortly after a walk in the countryside or the contact with animals occur, it may be about babesiosis. A doctor must diagnose the condition and, if necessary, initiate treatment directly.

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Treatment & Therapy

In the first years, a treatment of babesiosis with common anti-malarial drugs took place. However, since these did not succeed, they were no longer used. Later, a combination of cindamycin and quinine was tried successfully, which significantly reduced the number of pathogens. However, recent studies have shown inefficiency of quinine over Babesia divergens.

The medication for babesiosis is taken for seven days with close monitoring by the doctor. But even after the treatment, the patient may suffer from symptoms such as mild fever, tiredness and malaise for a few weeks or months. If the number of Babesia in the blood is high or if there is an immune deficiency, an exchange transfusion is recommended.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis of babesiosis depends on the patient's state of health, the diagnosis and the earliest possible start of treatment. Without a medical treatment, the pathogens spread continuously in the body.

They weaken the organism inexorably and trigger various complaints. The risk of organ failure or fatal disease progression increases. In severe cases there is a kidney failure or a collapse of the immune system. In both, the risk of death is very high.

With a medical treatment is usually given within a few days or weeks to alleviate the symptoms. The after-effects of the disease may persist for several months. The patient usually recovers only slowly, until afterwards a complaint freedom occurs. In the time of recovery, the sufferer must be sufficiently protected from over-exertion or new diseases. He risks a relapse and an extension of the healing path.

The prospect of healing deteriorates overall in people with pre-existing conditions as well as a weakened organism. If there is drug incompatibility, the healing process is also significantly prolonged. The alternative agents are less efficient, resulting in a delay in recovery. To improve the prospects, a healthy lifestyle helps. Sufficient sleep, the use of relaxation techniques and the avoidance of harmful substances are considered to be particularly supportive.

prevention

The best preventive measure against babesiosis is protection against tick infestation. Tick ​​bites usually cause the infection.

aftercare

After the treatment of babesiosis a regular follow-up care is important. The patient must go to the family doctor every two to four weeks in the first weeks after the end of the therapy. The physician can monitor the healing process by taking a medical history and possibly taking blood.

With a positive course of the cycle of medical examinations can be reduced. After three months no aftercare is necessary, as the babesiosis subsides without further complications. Nevertheless, even in the first months after the end of treatment the family doctor should be availed to routine examinations.

Especially in serious diseases, which are often associated with permanent skin and organ damage, must be carried out bi-monthly, a comprehensive physical examination. Babesiosis requires a lengthy antibiotic therapy. During follow-up, the prescribed medication must be slowly dehydrated.

Insofar as there are no complications and babesiosis has subsided completely, follow-up takes between one and three months. The patient should consult with the doctor during therapy and arrange the necessary follow-up appointments early. Babesiosis can occasionally lead to permanent skin changes. In order to avoid effects on the mental state, it is advisable to seek therapeutic advice.

You can do that yourself

Human babesiosis is mainly treated with antibiotics. Accompanying this you can relax, have a drink and sleep well. In the early stage, the disease can be treated well by physical protection and the administration of medicines.

For headaches and muscle aches help some natural medicinal plants. For example, the antiseptic Angelika, which is best used directly after the infection, or the decongestant St. John's Wort, which can be used later, has proven to be effective. The use of alternative remedies should always be discussed with the responsible physician. Used responsibly, rosemary, juniper and lavender can also help relieve symptoms quickly.

However, mild fever, nausea and fatigue may still occur weeks or months after treatment. Effective antidotes are sports, a healthy diet and regular check-ups at the doctor. As part of the medical consultation is not only informed about the risks of babesiosis.

Practical prevention tips against insect bites can usually give the doctor. If babesiosis occurs in conjunction with Lyme disease, further counseling sessions may be useful. For severe physical or mental complaints, participation in self-help groups is recommended.

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