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Babesiosis and malaria 

Babesiosis and malaria
Chapter:
Babesiosis and malaria
Author(s):

F. E. G. Cox

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198570028.003.0055
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date: 24 February 2020

Babesiosis and malaria are rare zoonoses that, with new developments in diagnosis and the application of molecular techniques, are becoming increasingly frequently recognised. Babesia species infect millions of cattle and unknown numbers of sheep, dogs, horses, and wildlife throughout the world but human infections are very uncommon. There are two distinct forms of human babesiosis. In Europe the causative agent is Babesia divergens, a natural parasite of cattle transmitted by the tick Ixodes ricinis. B. divergens infections in humans are extremely rare and nearly all have been recorded from asplenic or otherwise immunocompromised patients. In the USA, human babesiosis is more common than in Europe, although still very rare, and is not restricted to immunocompromised individuals. The causative agents are Babesia microti and B. duncani, common parasites of rodents, transmitted by the tick Ixodes scapularis. In addition there have been sporadic reports of human babesiosis from other parts of the world but in most cases the species of Babesia involved has not been characterised. Malaria parasites and Babesia both inhabit red blood cells during part of their life cycles and these stages cause the diseases, malaria and babesiosis, which are similar in many respects. The facts that humans can occasionally acquire malaria and babesiosis from animals, that both parasites appear similar when seen in blood films and that both cause similar symptoms can cause problems in diagnosis and these rare infections are, therefore, of interest to clinicians and epidemiologists.

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