Deer ticks, also known as black-legged ticks, acquire Lyme disease before spreading it to humans. This can happen in two ways. They can be born with it if the mother hatching the eggs is infected. Eggs are the first stage in deer ticks’ development. The eggs eventually hatch into larvae and, for survival, need to find a warm-blooded animal to feed. Still tiny in size, deer ticks attach to smaller animals, such as moles, voles, rats, and mice. This allows deer ticks to spread Lyme disease and other coinfections, such as Babesia, to humans.
When it finishes feeding, the deer tick will drop back to the ground and begins molting and changing into a nymph, at which point it will need to feed again. They go dormant during colder months, and nymphs actively search for a blood source when spring arrives. If the host carries the Lyme bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, the larval tick can acquire it.
Nymphs can attach to larger hosts such as raccoons, deer, skunks, opossums, cats, dogs, and cattle. Ticks feed for about five days before dropping to the ground and transitioning into adulthood. Once they finish feeding, ticks begin mating. After mating, male ticks die. Female ticks die after hatching their eggs, completing their life cycle. As adults, deer ticks can attach to and transmit Lyme bacteria to humans.
Ticks Carry More Than Lyme Disease
A significant problem exists, one that many general practitioners overlook when determining if a person has Lyme disease. Deer ticks can carry and transmit multiple diseases simultaneously. They are called coinfections and can produce symptoms like Lyme disease, making it difficult to get an accurate diagnosis.
Over 3,000 participants with confirmed Lyme disease were tested for coinfections. Researchers discovered more than 50% had a coinfection, and 30% had two or more coinfections.
One of the most common coinfections is Babesia.
What is Babesia?
Babesia, sometimes called Nuttallia or babesia microtia, is a malaria-like parasite that infects red blood cells. Ticks contract these parasites when feeding on small animals that are already infected. Animals that have tested positive for Babesia to date include the white-footed mouse, meadow voles, eastern chipmunks, Norway rats, cottontail rabbits, and short-tailed shrews.
A person who becomes infected develops a disease called babesiosis.
What is Babesiosis?
- Aches and pains
- Feeling tired
- Weight loss
Some may experience hemolytic anemia, which can have symptoms like jaundice, dark-colored urine, confusion, dizziness, and weakness. You may also experience an enlarged spleen or liver.
You can see how doctors who do not specialize in Lyme disease and coinfections can easily mistake your symptoms for more common conditions like the flu.
How to Get an Accurate Diagnosis
The first step in getting the correct diagnosis is finding the right doctor. In this case, an infectious diseases doctor specializing in Lyme disease and coinfections is often called a Lyme-literate doctor. Not only do they have advanced knowledge of Babesia, but they also have advanced equipment to test your blood. Many examine your blood under a microscope to detect coinfections since most parasites cannot be seen with the human eye.
Your Lyme-literate doctor will also perform blood, urine, and bone marrow tests when further confirmation is needed. Some blood tests must be completed in specialized labs typically used by Lyme-literate doctors.
Who Gets Babesia?
Anyone of any age can be infected with Babesia and develop babesiosis. However, some groups seem to be more susceptible to this coinfection, like the following:
- People with weakened immune systems or auto-immune conditions
- People over 50 years old
- People who have had their spleens removed
Those living in the Northeastern coastal region of the United States have higher odds of being infected with Babesia, especially in areas such as Long Island, Nantucket, Bock, and Martha’s Vineyard, where Babesia is most prevalent. However, diagnoses have also been confirmed in California, Washington, and Georgia.
How is Babesia Treated?
Lyme-literate doctors create treatment plans based on an extensive evaluation, lab analyses, and based on your symptoms. Antibiotics are often the first line of treatment. General practitioners typically prescribe a two-week round of oral antibiotics, which is not always enough to conquer the infection. There are plenty of babesia treatment options available.
Lyme-literate doctors prescribe intravenous antibiotics to ensure you receive one hundred percent of the medicine in your bloodstream. There are other innovative treatments available:
There may be times when your body, even when assisted with antibiotics, cannot flush out an infection. Different treatment approaches are needed, like replacing unhealthy blood with healthy, donated blood or therapeutic apheresis.
Lyme-literate doctors can perform apheresis on an outpatient basis in their clinic. By using a transfusion machine, your blood is exchanged for pure blood.
Those with less severe symptoms may benefit from treatments that help the body do its job. Immune boosting protocols may include:
- Hyperthermia Treatment: The doctor raises your internal temperature to create a fever. Chronic coinfections hinder the body’s ability to create a fever naturally. Therefore, they must be produced using artificial methods, all of which are safe and can be done on an outpatient basis.
- Intravenous Immunoglobin Therapy: This treatment strengthens your immune system by supplying your body with antibodies that fight infections.
- Regenerative Therapies: Uses stem cells that can replicate healthy cells already in the body. When transplanted to the areas affected by Babesia, they act as a repair system. Stem cell therapy produces better results when paired with other alternative therapies.
- Oxidative Medicine: Utilizes ozone to weaken parasites so the body can work to eliminate the infection.
There is a solution to your medical problems. Suppose you have symptoms that do not go away even after multiple treatments, contact an infectious diseases specialist who can provide a more thorough investigation of your health. Make your health a priority and start working with a Lyme-literate and coinfections doctor today.