Lyme Coinfection Series-Babesia
Updated: Jul 21
By Beth Aust, RN, Holistic Health Coach
As we have learned during our Lyme coinfection education series thus far, patients with Lyme disease often have one or more coinfections (or simultaneous infections) that can cause additional symptoms or exacerbate one or both disease systems. In one study from Lymedisease.org, over 50% of Lyme disease patients had coinfections.
So far, we have covered Lyme 101 and Bartonella. If you missed those, go check them out in the IMofCNY Blog section of our website (https://www.imofcny.com/integrative-medicine-of-cny-blog). This edition of our series will discuss one of the most reported co-infections among US patients with Lyme Disease, Babesia (Babesiosis).
Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells and are spread mostly by certain ticks. Infection is most seen in the North Midwestern and the Northeastern United States. It can also be found throughout the world in certain parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America.
There are over 100 species of Babesia, although only a handful of species have been documented as pathogenic in humans. Babesia is carried by the same species of ticks that cause Ehrlichiosis, Bartonellosis, and Lyme disease. Some people may not have any symptoms, and others may develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, sweats, fatigue, etc. One way of testing for Babesia is with Igenex labs testing the blood to detect antibodies (IFA), Babesia DNA (PCR) and/or Babesia RNA(FISH).
If you have a Babesia coinfection, it’s crucial that you get treated for Babesiosis before or while you are getting treated for Lyme Disease. HOWEVER, you do not have to have Lyme Disease to get Babesiosis.
Dr. Richard Horowitz has been treating Lyme and other tick-borne infections for over 30 years, and offers the following interesting points:
• He stated in an interview, “We see symptomatic Babesia infection in the majority of our co-infected Lyme patients with ongoing day sweats, night sweats, chills, flushing, "air hunger," and an unexplained cough, where Babesia exacerbates underlying Lyme symptoms and patients do not improve until Babesia is adequately treated.”
• Babesia can suppress the immune system’s ability to clear other parasites, like intestinal parasites, so oftentimes we find associated intestinal parasites playing a role.
• During the NorVect Conference 2014 in Norway, he shared, “Lyme patients who present with classical Lyme symptoms such as good and bad days, with symptoms that come and go, with joint, muscle, and/or nerve pain that migrates around the body, better and worse with antibiotics, etc BUT they have day sweats, night sweats, chills, air hunger or dyspnea, unexplainable cough… it could be Babesia; Babesia makes all the Lyme symptoms worse. He has seen patients with resistant Lyme that once they were treated for Babesia, they got better.
If you feel you may have symptoms of Lyme and/or Babesia, you are encouraged to discuss this with your Health Care Provider, however, they may not have the ILADS* based knowledge needed to help you.
Dr. Heidi Puc at IMofCNY has undergone training through the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) as well as a preceptorship with Dr. Richard Horowitz. She and her physician Assistant, Jeffery Roy, at IMofCNY are “Lyme literate” providers here in Central New York.
Dr. Puc and Jeffery Roy, RPA-C offer thorough consultations, listen to your story, review your symptoms, and offer testing to determine if you may have Lyme disease and a coinfection such as Babesia.
Together, you and your IMofCNY Provider will develop a wellness plan to support you on your journey of healing.
ILADS = International Lyme and Associated Disease Society:
Dr. Richard Horowitz: Latest Treatments in Lyme Disease: https://lymeconnection.org/support_and_resources/meet_the_lyme_disease_experts.html/title/dr-richard-horowitz-latest-treatments-in-lyme-disease
Richard Horowitz, MD, Tick-borne Co-infections, NorVect 2014: https://youtu.be/xuAO_amzydA
Igenex Labs: https://igenex.com/disease/babesia/