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Babesia – The Parasite Hiding in Lyme Disease

Babesia - The Parasite Hiding in Lyme Disease

According to the CDC website:
“Most cases (of Babesia) occur in the Northeast and upper Midwest, particularly in parts of New England, New York state, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.”

Babesia is a RBC parasite and considered an extremely common Co-infection with Lyme disease. Although Lyme is the most famous of the tick-borne illnesses, Babesia is nonetheless a serious complication which can prevent many patients from recovering if overlooked.

One key point about Babesia is because it of its parasitic nature, antibiotics traditionally used for Lyme Disease do not adequately eliminate Babesia infections. Missing Babesia is one of the top reasons we see patients NOT get better after anti-biotic therapy for Lyme disease.

Symptoms associated with Babesia and Lyme Disease:

Babesia can cause extremely similar symptoms to Lyme and it can be dangerous to try and differentiate the tick borne illnesses by symptoms alone. However the symptoms most suggestive of Babesia are:
  • Fatigue/Malaise
  • Air Hunger
  • Day Sweats/Night Sweats
  • ​Joint/Muscle Pain

Babesia Microti and Duncani

Babesia Microti is the form of Babesia that we have known about the longest. Because Babesia is a red blood cell parasite and shares many characteristics with malaria, much of the strategy towards tackling Babesia is taken from Malaria protocols. Indeed the top medications for Malaria are derived from the herb “Artemesia” aka “Wormwood”. We will talk more about how to help people recover from Babesia in a different article, but in short Artemesia based protocols tend to work very well (in general) for Babesia Microti cases. This is in contrast to the more recently discovered Babesia Duncani which does not respond as well to “classic” Malaria/Babesia drugs or the herbal Artemesia based protocols. Dr. Daniel Cameron, MD (former president of ILADS – Internation Lyme and Associated Disease Society – notes the lack of response of Babesia Duncani to the traditional Malaria/Babesia medical approach in several interviews and articles. Because B. Microti and B. Duncani do not respond to the same meds, it is vital to have different strategies for the different types of Babesia.

3-D image Babesia in Red Blood Cells which is where it resides.

Babesia Prevalence in the United States

Babesia is a common co-infection in Minnesota and Wisconsin

Direct and Indirect Testing for Babesia

  • Babesia Duncani and Microti IgM and IgG antibodies
  • ​Histamine >80
  • ​Elevated Eosinophils (>3% of WBC)
  • ​Elevated IgE (>114)
  • ​Elevated ECP (>10)
  • ​Elevated Chromogranin A (>50)
  • ​Elevated Tryptase (Lab Ranges)
The difficulty in Babesia direct testing like PCR, is that Babesia is typically in capillary beds…thus blood draws taken from the veins are typically negative for a PCR test. There are some doctors pushing for PCR tests from ear or finger pricks in order to get capillary blood for a sample, but this is still not a normal procedure. We have found a combination of the antibody, PCR, and indirect tests to be most useful in our office.

Babesia and Mast Cell Activation (MCAS) – The Missing Link

The other tests on the Babesia list are the Histamine, Chromogranin A and Tryptase markers. While these tests may be new to you, patients who have encountered Mast Cell Activated Syndromes may have encountered these before. We will write a more extensive article on MCAS in the future, but this finding was a surprise to me when I first discovered it. To make mast cell extremely simple, some patients get an immune shift where they produce large amounts of histamine. While this can cause skin rashes and irritation it can also cause a wide variety of neurological symptoms (histamine is a neurotransmitter after all) as well as large amounts of pain. The main therapy for mast cell disorders is a plethora of histamine blockers. We find this therapy to only give patients mild/moderate relief and some patients see almost no relief from this. The most effective therapy we have ever seen for a patient with MCAS is the elimination a parasite. The most common parasite we find with this condition is Babesia.

Healing From Babesia vs Healing from Lyme Disease

 Important points to remember from this article are:
1. Babesia is a common Co-infection in Lyme endemic areas.
2. Lyme testing does not find Babesia.
3. Babesia can mimic many of the symptoms caused by Lyme.
4. Common Lyme antibiotics do not cure Babesia, because it is a parasite and not a bacteria.
5. To find Babesia a mixture of direct testing and indirect, inflammatory testing is best.

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