Lyme rarely arrives by itself. The Borrelia infection is commonly paired with one or more other tick-borne infections with Babesia the most common.
There are many overlaps between the symptoms caused by co-infections such as Babesia and Lyme disease. This is why coinfections are often missed due to the Dr or practitioner only diagnosing Lyme and not looking any further.
“Co-infections can exacerbate Lyme disease through immune system modulation and are considered to be the major cause of resistance to therapy.” Berghoff W. (2012)
In other words, normal antibiotic treatments don’t work as well because the immune system is weaker and not as responsive or the antibiotics are incorrect for the coinfection.
How widespread is this infection?
“Human babesiosis is an emerging tick-borne issue. The first human case was reported in Croatia in 1957. By 1968, Babesia divergens was identified as the cause of human babesiosis in Europe. In the US Babesia microti infection is the cause. In more recent times human cases of babesiosis have emerged from Asia, Africa and South America.”
The first case of Babesiosis in Australia was reported in 2012. The patient caught the infection on the south coast of NSW. Extensive tests were performed and his history checked before authorities admitted he caught the disease in Australia. The man admitted to having had multiple tick bites. Senanayake S. et al (2012)
Babesia infections most often start with fever, chills, muscle or joint aches, and fatigue. The infection mimics mild malaria with the main symptoms stemming from hemolytic anemia. Indeed, these infections are often even diagnosed as malaria due to the similar appearance of infected red blood cells. (less likely in Australia as malaria is not routinely tested for)
Less common symptoms include:
- severe headache
- abdominal pain
- skin bruising
- yellowing of your skin and eyes
- mood changes
The progress of the infection may lead to developing chest or hip pain, shortness of breath, and drenching sweats.
You may not have any of the above symptoms and yet still be infected. Relapsing fever is sometimes a sign of undiagnosed babesiosis or borreliosis. This where you repeatedly have symptoms of fever that last for a few days and then subsides for up to weeks at a time before returning.
Berghoff W. Chronic Lyme Disease and Co-infections: Differential Diagnosis. The Open Neurology Journal (2012) Volume: 6, Issue: Suppl 1, Publisher Id: TONEUJ-6-158, DOI:10.2174/1874205X01206010158
Senanayake S. et al, First report of human babesiosis in Australia, Med J Aust 2012; 196 (5): 350-352. || DOI: 10.5694/mja11.11378