What Is Babesia?
Babesia species are the second most common parasite found in the blood of mammals. Although it's seen less frequently in humans than other animals, the number of human cases has risen recently, following Lyme disease's global expansion. (1)
Like the Lyme disease bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, tick bites transfer babesia. A 2015 report claimed that up to 40% of Lyme disease patients also experienced babesiosis. It is a common Lyme coinfection. (2)
“Babesiosis” refers to the disease itself, and “babesia” refers to the parasites that cause it. Babesia microti is the main species responsible for human babesiosis.
Human babesiosis is emerging as a significant health threat. But how do you know if you have it? Fortunately, there are helpful ways to pinpoint the babesia parasite and the symptoms it produces. (3) Babesia is an intracellular parasite, meaning it lives inside red blood cells (RBCs). It operates a lot like malaria. Babesia can reside and replicate within the RBCs, and cause the cells to open up, spilling their contents. (4)
Then, an infected patient’s RBC count may go down, resulting in anemia, fatigue, and more symptoms. RBCs are the blood cells responsible for delivering oxygen to the body. As a result, there may be other symptoms related to babesia-induced oxygen deprivation.
Additionally, when babesia causes RBCs to spill their contents, the body must handle this debris. This debris can trigger general inflammatory reactions and related symptoms, such as abdominal pain, headaches, nausea, and neck and back pain. (5)
The organs involved in the body’s essential drainage system — kidney, liver, and lymph — can also get congested with the babesia parasites and debris. This leads to further symptoms and side effects.
Babesia infection can recur years after what was thought to be a complete and effective treatment. The parasites residing inside of human red blood cells hide from and escape treatment methods.
Let's take a closer look at symptoms you may experience with a babesia infection.
Possible Babesiosis Symptoms
Babesiosis may cause a wide variety of symptoms, but not necessarily all at once. Plus, symptoms may change frequently. Symptoms include: (6)
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, anorexia, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, etc.)
- Generalized weakness
- Joint pain
- Mood and emotional issues (anxiety, depression, panic, and suicidal thoughts)
- Muscle aches
- Pink eye
- Profuse sweating
- Respiratory symptoms
- Severe headache
- Shortness of breath (“air hunger”)
- Skin bruising
- Weight loss
Notably, babesiosis tends to cause patients to be continually hot and constantly sweating. They may go through cycles of fever, night sweats, and profuse sweating during the day.
Babesia-infected patients may also experience shortness of breath, referred to as "air hunger." This is a sensation of being unable to breathe in sufficient air and having a hard time catching a breath.
Late-stage babesiosis may bring on more severe symptoms, including: (6)
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome
- Anemia requiring transfusion
- Congestive heart failure
- Disseminated intravascular coagulation (small blood clots that block small blood vessels)
Heart attack (myocardial infarction)
- Hypotension (very low blood pressure) and shock
- Renal failure
The clinical spectrum of the infection can range from asymptomatic to rapidly progressive and fatal. Although babesiosis may affect people of all ages, most patients present with the disease in their 40s or 50s. Specific factors cause more severe babesiosis. These patients are at increased risk: (7)
- Immunosuppressed or immunodeficient individuals
- People with liver disease
- Prior splenectomy patients
- The elderly
- Premature babies
How to Diagnose Babesiosis
Babesiosis can be challenging to diagnose. In the first two weeks or so, babesia parasites can be visible in a blood sample under a microscope. Later on, testing may show mild to severe anemia and/or a slightly depressed white blood cell count. The best determination may come through a clinical decision based on babesia symptoms.
Nearly all patients with babesia bacteria report profuse sweating. However, for individuals coinfected with Lyme disease, the occurrence of sweats drops by 42%. Sweating is also reported in other tick-borne illnesses, which adds to the diagnostic challenge. (8)
Another coinfection, called bartonella, often looks a lot like babesia, and the other way around. So if you are not responding to treatment, try addressing the other. It may be easier to assume that you have both and go after both with your treatment protocol.
Steps to Take to Fight Babesia
When tackling babesia and other Lyme coinfections, supporting your body’s foundation is an essential first step. Building a solid base and boosting your immune system can go a long way. Make yourself an inhospitable host and kick out unwanted guests!
To help boost immune function and resist bacteria, you can turn to numerous herbs and botanicals. Studies have found that some natural herbs are extremely effective in addressing babesia symptoms and cleansing the parasite itself.
Here are a few designed to move you past a pathogenic plateau and onto victory — (9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24)
Boneset: Helps lower inflammation while tackling parasites
Coleus forskohlii root: Supports vital organs and inhibits inflammatory cells in the body
Devil’s claw root: May help reduce joint inflammation and pain
Horsetail: Has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and liver-protective properties
Japanese knotweed: Is high in resveratrol, which calms inflammation and helps fight pathogens
Pau d’arco bark: Helps combat bacterial and fungal infections
Red root: Promotes lymphatic drainage and flow
Sweet annie: Contains powerful, antiparasitic antioxidants
Teasel root: Reduces inflammation associated with vector-borne pathogens
White willow bark: Prevents immune cells from releasing inflammatory compounds
Yellow dock root: Supports detox and liver function
These herbs may up the ante on detox and push you onto the next level of healing.
Why Use a Comprehensive Detox Approach?
Even with a babesiosis diagnosis, that’s likely not the only factor holding you back.
If heavy metals, mold toxins, parasites, or other pathogens burden your body, these can all work together to suppress your immune system. As a result, your body’s terrain becomes more and more toxic, and it’s easier for harmful pathogens and toxins to take over your system.
Until you get rid of these challenges, you're likely not going to have the success you want to free yourself of babesia completely. A comprehensive detox approach may work better than immediately targeting babesia parasites.
A stealthy infection like babesia likes to hide deep within the body. To outsmart it, you may need to support foundational areas first: your detox pathways and immune function.
Once you have established clear drainage pathways and boosted your immune system, your body will be better equipped to fight off unwelcome pathogens. With a comprehensive approach, you can fend babesia (and any of its friends) off once and for all.