Babesia is a protozoan infection of the red blood cells. It is a malaria-like infection, and in fact is so similar to malaria that it is hard to distinguish between the two under a microscope without proper training. The symptoms, appearance and actions under the microscope of Babesia duncani are very similar to those of Babesia Microti. Upon infection of a host, these little invaders cause lysis or rupture of the host's red blood cells. As the infection takes hold, the little parasites reproduce as quickly as possible and as red blood cell depletion increases, they actually begin to deprive their host of oxygen -- which causes extreme, debilitating fatigue among other possible symptoms.
The following list is from an article by Dr. James Schaller, Exciting News About Babesia:
Babesia Signs and Symptoms
"Babesiosis can cause many different signs and symptoms. Here are the most common that should raise suspicion:
|High fever to persistent low fever|
|Chills Sweats Headache Fatigue Muscle aches|
|Joint aches/Pain Depression Anxiety/Panic|
|Nausea Vomiting Cough|
|Shortness of breath|
|Air hunger or unsatisfying deep breaths|
|Enlarged liver (under your right rib cage)|
|Enlarged spleen (under your left rib cage)|
|Yellow hue on eyes, hands and skin (Jaundice)|
|Enlarged lymph nodes (also in Lyme or Bartonella)|
|Significant memory change|
|Profound psychiatric illnesses|
|Daytime sleep urgency despite nighttime sleep|
|Waves of generalized itching|
|Balance problems with dizziness|
|Severe chest wall pains|
|Random stabbing pains|
|Weight loss or gain Sensitivity to light|
|Sleep in excess of 8-1/2 hours per day|
|You have received blood from another person|
Since Babesia lives within red blood cells, it can cause slugging of the red blood cells and make them slightly deformed. Injury and death can result from slugging blood vessels, lungs and kidneys."
With my recent relapse, I've found myself back in the mode of trying to learn everything I can about the many facets of this illness. Last week, as my husband and I were trying to research various physicians, clinics and treatment protocols, we dug out my file folder of test results from four years ago. My LLMD was extremely thorough in doing my labs, and I have copies of everything we did. As I was looking over them, I noticed for the first time, that there is a brief description given about each result, including information about the infection and how the test works.
Here is the information, word for word, provided by IGeneX Labs on my printed test results: "Babesia duncani, formerly WA-1, is a Babesia-like piroplasma associated with cases of Babesiosis in the Pacific Northwest. The first case of Babesiosis acquired by B duncani was in South-Central Washington State (Quick et al 1993, Ann Intern Med, 119:284).
When I read this, I about fell off my chair. I grew up in Portland, Oregon, where I learned from a young age to appreciate the beauty of the Pacific Northwest through fishing, hiking, camping, spelunking and backpacking. I absolutely loved being outdoors, we spent untold time in the woods, and I spent plenty of time out in nature in the State of Washington, too.
The reason that I was so floored by this information was because I was bitten by a tick in New England, during a late-summer 6-weeks-long trip. I had gotten a large, solid, red rash a few days after returning home, (I was told by the doctor that it looked like a spider bite or allergic reaction and he was not concerned about it,) and I can easily track all of my major symptoms and decline in physical health from that point. I had never considered that I could ever have contracted any sort of tick borne infection in the Pacific Northwest, I don't ever recall having a tick bite, and yet, there it was on my test results.
So that's when I began to really try to think of different things that had happened in my life prior to 2003. Strange rashes, possible tick exposure, really bad "flus" or other illnesses. To my surprise, as I specifically tried to recall these things, I remembered several times, when I was much less informed about TICK BORNE DISEASES (TBD,) where I had not only had tick exposure, but also strange rashes. Once, after backpacking in a beautiful place in South-Central Washington State called Siouxon Falls, near Amboy, Washington, we pulled three huge, ugly and fully engorged ticks off our dog, that had accompanied us on the excursion. A week or two later, (I'm not sure exactly how long it was since this happened in 1998) I got a strange, multi-lesion rash that was first diagnosed as chicken pox, then shingles...even though I had had the chicken pox as a little child and both doctors stated that it didn't really look like traditional CP or shingles. I also had similar rashes three times over a one year period while I was living in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (just a stone's throw from the Washington State line) in 2002. Each time I would have a significant case of fever & chills, with the rashes appearing the following day.
In addition to Lyme Disease, there are MANY tick borne diseases that can cause significant problems all on their own. These include: Babesiosis, Erlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Relapsing Fever, Tularemia, Bartonella, Q Fever, Tick Paralysis, Tick Borne Encephalitis and Colorado Tick Fever, among others. Each is transmitted by a tick bite, but many times, multiple infections are transmitted in one tick bite.
Together in any combination, these illnesses make the diagnosis and treatment of any single infection much more difficult. It is important to be extremely vigilant in photographing and reporting ANY rash or lesion to your doctor. I never took pictures of any of my rashes, and now I really wish I had. Make sure that you also record the date of the rash, any symptoms in the days leading up to or coinciding with the rash appearing, and any travel, outdoors excursions, yard work or known tick exposure (this is extremely important, and the doctor may not ask!) along with any other pertinent information.
Also check out: Babesia & Lyme Disease, a post from earlier this month.