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Lyme Co-Infections: What Is Babesiosis?

Spring is finally here. As the temperature climbs and the days lengthen, leaves are unfurling and flowers are beginning to bloom. After a long and bleak winter, the northern half of the world is suddenly exploding with color.

Unfortunately, the arrival of spring means another kind of explosion is happening: the tick population is suddenly increasing as recently-laid eggs start to hatch. Particularly problematic for humans are black-legged ticks, also known as deer or Ixodes ticks, which can transmit Lyme disease and other infections with a single bite.

What is Lyme disease and how is it transmitted?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Certain types of rodents, birds, and deer act as vectors for Borrelia burgdorferi, meaning they are carriers of this and other disease-causing bacteria. When a black-legged tick bites and feeds off of one of these disease vectors, it becomes infected with Borrelia burgdorferi and can then transmit it to humans, causing Lyme infection.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is typically divided into two stages: early and late. Also known as acute Lyme disease, the early stage is characterized by these symptoms:

  • Erythema migrans, an expanding red rash that may resemble a bullseye or target
  • Headaches and neck stiffness
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness or paralysis of facial muscles
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Heart palpitations or chest pain

Ideally, Lyme disease is diagnosed and treated during the acute phase. If the disease isn’t caught early enough (or if treatment is unsuccessful), Lyme disease can enter the chronic stage. Some symptoms of chronic Lyme disease are:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Memory loss
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Muddled thinking, also known as “brain fog”
  • Neuropathy (including nerve pain, numbness, or tingling)
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in mood
  • Digestive issues
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Patients with chronic Lyme disease may have trouble concentrating.

Because many practitioners aren’t well trained when it comes to spotting Lyme symptoms, and because these symptoms mimic those of common illnesses like influenza, Lyme disease can be extremely difficult to diagnose and treat. And this difficulty is often exacerbated by the presence of Lyme co-infections.

What are Lyme co-infections?

Black-legged ticks can carry a number of different disease-causing bacteria along with Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. This means that in a single tick bite, a person can be infected with Lyme and a host of other illnesses at the same time. These illnesses are called Lyme co-infections, and they are believed to affect over 50% of Lyme patients.

Since even Lyme-savvy physicians aren’t always aware of their existence, these co-infections often fly under the radar. Let’s take a closer look at one of the most common Lyme co-infections: babesiosis.

What is babesiosis?

Babesiosis is a malaria-like infection caused by Babesia, protozoans that act as parasites on red blood cells. Black-legged ticks are carriers of Babesia, which is why babesiosis is a co-infection that often occurs along with Lyme disease. Babesia can also be transmitted from mother to child or through an infected blood transfusion, since most blood banks don’t currently screen for Babesia.

Symptoms of babesiosis may resemble those of Lyme infection and include:

  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Jaundice
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Drenching sweats
  • Shortness of breath

Babesiosis is known as “canine malaria” in dogs, but it’s rarely diagnosed in humans because of the inconspicuousness of its symptoms. In a healthy individual, babesiosis may be so mild as to go unnoticed. However, in a person with complications like a weakened immune symptom (which can happen as a result of chronic Lyme disease), babesiosis can become quite severe.

How do you test for babesiosis?

Although it may be detectable under a microscope within the first two weeks of infection, babesiosis can be most effectively diagnosed using a Babesia ELISpot. The ELISpot is a tried, tested, and reliable method that has been used for years to detect Lyme and its co-infections (like babesiosis).

The newest ELISpot incarnation, LymeSpot Revised, can deliver detailed information about infections, including whether they are active or latent. LymeSpot Revised makes it possible to determine whether patients’ problems are being caused by their infection, inflammation, or an autoimmune process.

How is babesiosis treated?

Babesiosis is typically treated using a combination of antibiotics and anti-malarial medication. For babesiosis patients with compromised immunity, atovaquone combined with higher doses of azithromycin (600–1000 mg per day) has successfully been used.

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Babesiosis is typically treated with antibiotics and anti-malarial medication.

As with other Lyme co-infections, babesiosis needs to be diagnosed and treated separately from Lyme disease. It is only when practitioners specifically address each co-infection (while also treating Lyme disease) that a patient has the best chance of making a full recovery.

The arrival of spring and, consequently, disease-carrying ticks, means that physicians and patients alike need to be able to spot symptoms of Lyme disease and Lyme co-infections like babesiosis. When we know what to look for, we’re more likely to catch these illnesses before they become severe.

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How Anti-Inflammatory Foods Can Boost The Efficacy Of Lyme Disease Treatment

In spite of the fact that Lyme disease cases are growing in number, there is still much confusion about how best to diagnose and treat this complex condition. Caused by the bacterium borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease is transmitted by blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks) infected with this bacterium. People who visit a doctor after noticing early symptoms of Lyme disease such as fever, body aches, or a rash resembling a target may receive blood tests to check for antibodies against borrelia burgdorferi. If the tests are positive, patients are generally treated with antibiotics for 10 to 21 days, and many make a full recovery.

Continue reading “How Anti-Inflammatory Foods Can Boost The Efficacy Of Lyme Disease Treatment”
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6 Reasons Good Nutrition Is A Superpower In The Fight Against Lyme Disease

There are so many reasons why good nutrition is essential to your health. Boasting everything from disease-fighting properties to the ability to help your skin glow, a balanced, clean diet can result in you having an overall healthier system. Good nutrition becomes even more vital if you’re battling a chronic illness like Lyme disease. In this case, your body needs even more assistance in getting all the vitamins and nutrients you require to keep up your strength and even reduce some of your symptoms.

Continue reading “6 Reasons Good Nutrition Is A Superpower In The Fight Against Lyme Disease”
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Lyme Disease And Medical Insurance: All You Need To Know

Facing down medical insurance when you suffer from Lyme disease can be a scary and complicated affair. Lyme exists in a gray area of medicine, where it is acknowledged and simultaneously unacknowledged. It is also potentially a chronic condition, which means long-term treatments and numerous consultations for patients. On top of that, the treatment path, already guaranteed to be long and arduous, is not always straightforward. Lyme disease can affect patients differently depending on their constitution. Trying to organize medical insurance on top of this can be an extremely stressful affair. This article will break down everything you need to know about Lyme disease and medical insurance, and hopefully help you to feel a little more reassured.

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Will Lyme Disease Go Away If Left Untreated?

While we understand exactly where Lyme disease comes from, how to best treat it is still a little bit of a mystery to us. For starters, patients are routinely misdiagnosed with all kinds of similar illnesses, so treatment is compromised from the very early stages. Compounding this is the fact that not a lot of doctors are Lyme-literate; in fact, there are very few health practitioners who are knowledgeable about the effects of chronic Lyme, the long-term form of the disease, and the best way to treat it. This lack of concrete answers can be frustrating for patients, who often have many unanswered questions about their condition. The central ones revolve around treatment plans and the prognosis. Often one of the first that comes to mind is, “Will Lyme disease go away if left untreated?”

Continue reading “Will Lyme Disease Go Away If Left Untreated?”