Friday, March 29, 2013

Babesia duncani

When I was first diagnosed and learning about Lyme Disease and all of it's co-infections four years ago, I had hardly any luck in doing an internet search for information on Babesia duncani, a less commonly seen strain of Babesia. I found a lot of articles full of technical medical jargon, but I was looking for something that the lay person could understand. Eventually, with the demands of long-term treatment, I gave up and haven't really thought much of Babesia duncani in the last four years.

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:

bulletHigh fever to persistent low fever
bulletSlowed thinking
bulletDecreased appetite
bulletChills Sweats Headache Fatigue Muscle aches
bulletJoint aches/Pain Depression Anxiety/Panic
bulletNausea Vomiting Cough
bulletShortness of breath
bulletAir hunger or unsatisfying deep breaths
bulletDark urine
bulletEnlarged liver (under your right rib cage)
bulletEnlarged spleen (under your left rib cage)
bulletYellow hue on eyes, hands and skin (Jaundice)
bulletEnlarged lymph nodes (also in Lyme or Bartonella)
bulletSignificant memory change
bulletProfound psychiatric illnesses
bulletStruggle organizing
bulletDaytime sleep urgency despite nighttime sleep
bulletWaves of generalized itching
bulletBalance problems with dizziness
bulletSevere chest wall pains
bulletRandom stabbing pains
bulletWeight loss or gain Sensitivity to light
bulletSleep in excess of 8-1/2 hours per day
bulletYou 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.


  1. Thank you so much for this info. I was just diagnosed with this today and treating lyme for 4 years.

  2. I came back positive to this from Igenix also. I think I got it in the early to mid '90s. Have experienced most of the symptoms on the list. Was diagnosed several times with a rash they called shingles but it didn't act like shingles. I've never been to Washington state, and was infected in Massachusetts.
    I hope you're feeling better and getting good treatment

  3. I am so disgusted at this point, because my daughter got bitten in 2002 when she was seven. She found a tick near her groin, pulled it out with a tweezer, and disposed of it in the toilet. She never told me or I would have acted on it immediately. We live in CT. She didn't start exhibiting symptoms until 2007 when she had a swollen foot and ankle. The first lyme test was negative (supposedly) bec it didn't have enough bands. In 2009, I begged for treatment since she had bad knee pain and couldn't walk. They agreed THAT test was positive. She took doxy for a month and felt better physically but after she stopped the doxy, her cognitive symptoms got worse, but the pediatrician would not prescribe more antibiotics. She said she was "cured." In 2010, she was diagnosed with hashimotos and then in 2011, her new dr tested for lyme, and he said she had it and was in the fight of her life. Three other dr's said it was not lyme, because she never turned IgG positive on her western blots. She was negative at that point for all co-infections through Quest. In 2012, we saw a LLMD, and she was negative through Igenex for co-infections and had a few IgM bands that were indeterminate. She tried doryx and tindamax for six months but it did nothing for her cognitive issues. She had a brain spect that showed hypoperfusion of the brain in her lobes and basal ganglia. IV rocephin was recommended, but she was going into sr year of high school, and she wanted to graduate..She had bonecrushing fatigue, hair loss, scalp pain and sensitivity to light and touch (hair follicle pain). No other symptoms then or all those years before. Then in 2013, we saw a neurologist in NYC, and he tested her for lyme through the hospital lab, and it came back negative, so he blamed the encephalopathy of the brain (hypoperfusion) on Hashimoto's. He did a pet scan and pet mri which showed severe hypometabolism (like in alzheimer's patients), and said that it was all caused by Hashi's encephalopathy vs. lyme encephalopathy. The following month she was retested by Igenex with her lyme dr and it showed IGM positive and IgG bands finally showed up (not enough for CDC criteria), but that was the argument by the neurologist and infectious disease dr's in the past that she couldn't have lyme, because she was never IgG positive. She also showed positive for Bartonella through Quest's specialized labs. She never goes anywhere but NYC on occasion when she can get out of bed, and we don't go anywhere in CT bec of grass and woods except to the store. I won't even let my dog out! I even had the advanced labs culture test and it came back positive for lyme in six days replete with pictures of the spirochetes. This was the first time a co-infection showed up. Fast forward to July 2013 (only 4 months after all those lyme tests with Igenex), and this month, it showed IgM, IgG, positive plus positive for Bartonella (although this month Quest showed negative for Bart), and positive for Babesia Fish and Babesia Duncani. What?????? It is 11 years after the original tick was found, my daughter never had a rash or fever or any symptoms of any of these co-infections, she never goes into the woods let alone steps on the grass, and suddenly she now has all these co-infections (without those symptoms), and no one can explain the symptoms she DOES have. So the LLMD wants to treat everything with IV rocephin, IV doxy, IV zithromax, enula drops, malarone oral and tindamax on weekends and actigall to prevent gall stones. My daughter has a weak stomach which is why he ordered IV but why must she be on medicine for co-infections that she has no symptoms for and why would Quest show Bart positive in March and negative in July and Igenex showed negative in March and positive in July. I don't know if I can trust these labs, and B. Duncani I was told is found in the Pacific Northwest...We live one hour out of NYC.... I'm wondering if Igenex is overproducing false positives?

    1. Most of this I don't have answers to however the location of Babesia duncani vs your daughters travels, this is what I can share. Jane Doe's grandparents get in the rv with fluffy and drive to the east coast, taking along with them their bugs. August 2011 a study from Vancouver island in Canada(basically across the bay from Washington) was released showing that the song birds were carrying infected ticks from our area as they migrated. Another study tested the Canadian blood bank supply and showed..I believe it was 80% contamination of lyme/coinfection. Beautiful Christmas trees from the NW carry insects. Lumber from our logging operations.. there are many many ways for these buggers to get out of their original "zone"

    2. the reason you get positives then negative is because they are not always on your blood they live in your organs,so some do go to your blood but when they draw Ur blood its a 50/50 chance it will show up in Ur blood but once u get a positive its always better to get treated i am positive for all those and when i treat all infections i feel better but when i treat one infection only i go back to square 1

    3. Thank you being so pro active for you and your loved ones. You are giving us the benefit of your research. I appreciate the diligence put into writing and sharing your experience with us. Well written. Please send a copy of this to the White House. This should be mandatory reading for all medical personnel. With Awareness we can be more knowledgeable of just how stealthy these organisms are. Healing Hugs.

  4. I have just been tested IgG positive and having an awful time getting straight answers.My ND referred me to ILAD Dr in Stamford.Dr Alfonzo Campo I will be seeing him in November.Perhaps he can help your daughter.

  5. sounds like your daughter was originally infected with lyme plus the coinfections, but like lyme the coinfections are good at hiding from the immune system. considering she went untreated all that time, it's no wonder she didn't test positive until after she hard started on some kind of treatment. I think your daughter must be very ill with these infections, which also complicate treatment overall. I too have been ill for four years, originally just tested positive for the lyme with Elisa and didn't have enough bands for the Western Blot, however I had band 39 which is lyme specific. thankfully i went to a lyme literate dr right away but ended up getting worse on a combination that was supposed to treat Bartonella. Now, four years later I am finally testing positive for Babesia Duncani (never bit on the West Coast, I grew up in Northern Virginia). I too have hypoperfusion of the brain, and I believe I have been sick for many more years (at least 8) having been exposed to ticks over the years and growing up. I havne't been able to get a Dr to prescribe IV for me, and I'm not sure why except that they thought they could keep me on oral and control my symptoms that way. Unfortunately I have gotten worse over the past few years, but I'm hoping that the treatment for Babesia will help my symptoms. Good luck to you all, especially your daughter. I hope she tries the treatment the LLMD is recommending. IV is the only guaranteed way to get the meds into the brain.

  6. What I wonder is can we ever really get rid of Babs Duncani. I too have it, have been treating forever. My labs consistently come back positive for it. Is it possible for this to become persistent like it is for lyme disease?

    My doctor is under the impression at this point that lyme is gone and I'm just dealing with babesia. But the treatments just arent working as quickly as I think they should. I have been on babesia treatment for almost a year now. Shouldn't I stop showing positive after a while? Of course, I still have many of the symptoms as well, so even if the labs showed normal I would question them.

    Most recently I had actually thought I was getting better. I had a three (maybe even four) week period where I had very little symptoms. I had begun to develop some GI problems from the high doses of malarone and coartem so we decided to stop treatment to see if that cleared up, which it did. Interestingly I was off tx for two weeks and all of my symptoms came flooding back. Even things that I hadnt had in a long time.

    I have since restarted my protocol again because I just dont feel like I'm better.

    Can this be persistent? Can it become chronic and we just never can get rid of it?

  7. I was diagnosed with duncati and I live in pa, also,the tick was tested and it tested dun can't, supposedly it's only on west,well,there wrong, I was really sick but took mepron etc.. But imhave had two relapses. I don't know for,sure but I don't think it ever goes away, I hope I'm wrong,,,