Persistence of babesia microti infection in humans

Evan M. Bloch, Sanjai Kumar, Peter J. Krause

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Persistent infection is a characteristic feature of babesiosis, a worldwide, emerging tick-borne disease caused by members of the genus Babesia. Persistence of Babesia infection in reservoir hosts increases the probability of survival and transmission of these pathogens. Laboratory tools to detect Babesia in red blood cells include microscopic detection using peripheral blood smears, nucleic acid detection (polymerase chain reaction and transcription mediated amplification), antigen detection, and antibody detection. Babesia microti, the major cause of human babesiosis, can asymptomatically infect immunocompetent individuals for up to two years. Chronically infected blood donors may transmit the pathogen to another person through blood transfusion. Transfusion-transmitted babesiosis causes severe complications and death in about a fifth of cases. Immunocompromised patients, including those with asplenia, HIV/AIDS, malignancy, or on immunosuppressive drugs, often experience severe disease that may relapse up to two years later despite anti-Babesia therapy. Persistent Babesia infection is promoted by Babesia immune evasive strategies and impaired host immune mechanisms. The health burden of persistent and recrudescent babesiosis can be minimized by development of novel therapeutic measures, such as new anti-parasitic drugs or drug combinations, improved anti-parasitic drug duration strategies, or immunoglobulin preparations; and novel preventive approaches, including early detection methods, tick-avoidance, and blood donor screening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • Babesia
  • Babesia microti
  • Blood transfusion
  • Malaria
  • Persistence
  • Plasmodia
  • Recurrence
  • Spleen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Molecular Biology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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