Babesia is a protozoal parasite, much like malaria, infecting the red blood cells and eventually destroying them. There are 13 different types, although only three of them are known to infect people. The symptoms can include any or all of the following: fatigue, drenching night sweats, fever, chills, weakness, weight loss, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, cough, shortness of breath, headache, neck and back stiffness, dark urine or blood in urine.
Until recently, Babesia was considered a rare disease because it was only diagnosed in extremely ill patients with high fevers (104+). The bacteria which invades the red blood cells, has been largely ignored by the medical community in part because there wasn’t a reliable test for diagnosing it, and in part because there has been so little information about the disease.
Now it is recognized as the most common co-infection of Lyme disease, and documented to be synergistically linked in a manner that makes it very difficult to get rid of one without treating both.
The symptoms for Babesia can be very difficult to distinguish between the symptoms for Lyme disease, and with so few doctors being literate on the intricacies regarding testing, diagnosis and treatment, the vast number of cases go untreated and unreported.
New research being done by Dr. James L. Schaller of Naples, Florida has brought about a break-through in our understanding of Babesia which is now considered the most common co-infection of Lyme disease, and not rare at all. He has found that not only can the disease go undetected for years, with no symptoms at all (like Lyme), there are many species of Babesia for which there are no tests.
Babesia symptoms, which may go back ten years or more, include one or more of the following; listlessness, slow thinking, high fevers or unexplained fevers, reduced appetite, chills, sweats, headaches and/or migraines, fatigue, muscle and/or joint pain, depression, anxiety, panic, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, cough, dark urine, enlarged spleen and/or liver, jaundice, enlarged lymph nodes, memory loss, psychiatric illness, struggle organizing, urgency to sleep in day, waves of generalized itching, dizziness, chest wall pain, sensitivity to light, and abdominal pain.
If you have some of these symptoms, you will immediately run into a problem getting a diagnosis. Dr. Schaller insists that there are no labs trained to catch the various forms of Babesia.
In his book, “The Diagnosis and Treatment of Babesia” Dr Schaller describes the various tests available for confirming Babesia, and insists that lab technicians are not trained to examine the red blood cells but focus on the white blood cells. He further states that even when examining red blood cells, that the lab technicians will fail to see the infection unless they take the extra time to look very carefully and understand what they are looking for. Just as most doctors are not trained on the myriad symptoms associated with Babesia, lab technicians are not trained with respect to Babesia either.
Dr Schaller prefers Fry Labs and always request that malaria and hemoprotozoan infections be ruled out (eg. Babesia species, Erlichia species, Anaplasmas and Bartonella species), and that the technician look at the blood under 1000x with oil, and to look carefully for “ring forms, tetrads and other signs of parasites.”
Treatment can be even more complicated due to each individual’s combination of infections, the severity of their infection and symptoms, their immune system’s strength or weakness, and/or other possible health problems.
Most every doctor who understands the intricacies of Lyme disease and co-infections will agree that a specialized combination of drugs and/or herbs must be used. Even then, there is a strong likelihood that the treatment will need to be adjusted based on the patient’s response.
In closing, it is important to suspect one or more co-infections if specific Lyme treatments fail. As more doctors come to understand the symptoms of each infection and the synergy between them, hopefully that knowledge will lead to more people finding a cure from chronic Lyme disease.