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Babesia sp., Molecular Detection

Molecular testing for Babesia species is used for laboratory documentation of babesiosis.

Babesia is a genus of parasitic protozoa that infects the red blood cells of mammals, including humans. These parasites are responsible for a disease known as babesiosis, which is similar to malaria in some aspects.

Babesia is a genus of Apicomplexa phylum, a group of single-celled parasites that includes other well-known parasites like Plasmodium (causative agent of malaria) and Toxoplasma. Babesia parasites are primarily transmitted to humans and other animals through the bite of infected ticks. The most common tick species responsible for transmitting Babesia to humans in the United States is Ixodes scapularis and in Europe the species Ixodes ricinus. This makes babesiosis a tick-borne disease. Of the species to infect humans, Babesia microti is most common in the Americas, whereas Babesia divergens is the predominant strain found in Europe. Babesia parasites can infect a variety of animals, including livestock, wildlife, and domestic animals, but they are most often associated with mammals like cattle, dogs, and humans.

Babesiosis in humans can cause a range of symptoms, including fever, chills, fatigue, muscle aches, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Severe cases can lead to hemolytic anemia, which is the destruction of red blood cells. The severity of symptoms can vary depending on the species of Babesia involved and the individual's health.

Diagnosis of babesiosis is typically made by examining blood smears under a microscope, where the parasites can be observed inside red blood cells. Molecular techniques like PCR can also be used, as a fast and accurate method to identify the presence of the parasite's genetic material.

The treatment of babesiosis often involves medications such as antiparasitic drugs (e.g., atovaquone and azithromycin) or a combination of antibiotics and antiparasitic drugs. Severe cases may require hospitalization and blood transfusions.

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