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Babesia is a tick-borne bacterium that can cause babesiosis and pathogens that attack red blood cells. It is transmitted by the same Ixodes tick implicated in Lyme disease. There are about 99 different species of Babesia but it is usually the Babesia microti that is implicated in infection in the United States.

Symptoms of Babesia can often be nonspecific and include fatigue, malaise, chills and headache. Some of the symptoms also mimic malaria. However, most cases of human babesiosis are probably sub-clinical and occur as a self-limiting illness. People who are older or ill with other conditions may experience the symptoms of babesiosis. These may first appear within one month to one year after exposure and include fatigue and loss of appetite. As the infection grows more severe, symptoms may include fever, chills, drenching sweats, muscle aches, jaundice and headache.

Babesiosis occurs principally in the spring, summer, and fall in the coastal areas of the United States, especially on the offshore islands of New York and Massachusetts. Bite cases of babesiosis have been reported in Georgia, California, and Wisconsin, as well as in Europe. Babesiosis is currently considered a health threat throughout the US, as cases of the infection and deaths have occurred in areas where the risk of infection was not believed to exist previously. 

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Tests:

 PCR is the only practical means of directly detecting the presence of the infectious Borrelia bacteria, whie other tests, such ELISA and Western blot tests, merely test for antibodies to the Borrelia organism. As such, a positive result to ELISA and Western blot tests may indicate either current or previous infection and is not necessarily proof of active infection causing Lyme disease.

PCR tests rely on detecting the genetic material (DNA) of the suspected infectious spirochaete or bacteria.

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