Mild Babesiosis

Mild Babesiosis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Mild babesiosis is a rare, emerging tick-borne disease caused by Babesia parasites that are acquired through the bite of an infected tick. People with mild forms of babesiosis usually have no or mild symptoms. The infection can be self-limited and resolve without treatment. However, it can also become more severe or can increase the risk of other illnesses, such as Lyme disease. Treatment options for mild babesiosis include antibiotics and lifestyle modifications.

Symptoms of Mild Babesiosis

Symptoms of mild babesiosis usually appear 1-4 weeks after the infected tick bite. Many people may not notice any symptoms as the infection may be mild or asymptomatic. The most common symptom is fever, however, some people may also experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Decreased appetite
  • Joint pain
  • Chills and sweats
  • Hepatosplenomegaly (enlargement of the liver and spleen)

Causes of Mild Babesiosis

Mild babesiosis is caused by Babesia parasites, which are passed to humans through the bite of an infected tick. The most common tick that carries Babesia in the US is the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). Other ticks can also carry Babesia, including the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) and the Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum).

Diagnosing Mild Babesiosis

Your doctor will diagnose mild babesiosis based on your symptoms, physical examination, a complete medical history, and other laboratory tests. These tests may include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC): Tests for anemia, which can be a sign of babesiosis.
  • Blood smear: Tests for Babesia parasites in the blood.
  • Antibody tests: Tests for antibodies to Babesia, such as an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or immunofluorescence assay (IFA).
  • PCR: Tests for Babesia DNA in the blood.

Treatment for Mild Babesiosis

If you have mild babesiosis, your doctor may decide not to treat it. However, if the infection is severe, your doctor may recommend treatment with antibiotics. The two most common antibiotics used for mild babesiosis are atovaquone plus azithromycin or clindamycin plus quinine. Either combination can be used to treat mild babesiosis. Treatment should be tailored to the individual's needs and may include lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding tick bites and reducing stress levels. It is important to follow up with your doctor to ensure the infection is properly treated and to prevent recurrence.