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Curr Opin Hematol. 2003 Nov;10(6):405-11.

Risk and prevention of transfusion-transmitted babesiosis and other tick-borne diseases.

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American Red Cross, Connecticut Blood Services, Farmington, and University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut 06032, USA.



Tick-borne diseases have increasingly been recognized in the United States as public health problems. The importance of tick-borne diseases has been accelerated by increases in animal populations, as well as increased human recreation in wooded environments that are conducive to tick bites. Babesiosis, usually caused by the intraerythrocytic parasite, Babesia microti and transmitted by the same tick as Lyme disease, has important transfusion implications. Although Lyme disease has not been reported from blood transfusion, newly identified tick-borne diseases such as ehrlichiosis raise additional questions about the role of the tick in transfusion-transmitted diseases.


The risk of transfusion-transmitted babesiosis is higher than usually appreciated and in endemic areas represents a major threat to the blood supply. Furthermore, the geographic range of B. microti is expanding, other Babesia spp. have been implicated in transfusion transmission in the western United States, and the movement of blood donors and donated blood components may result in the appearance of transfusion babesiosis in areas less familiar with these parasites. Consequently, a higher degree of clinical suspicion will allow early recognition and treatment of this important transfusion complication.


In endemic areas transfusion-transmitted babesiosis is more prevalent than usually believed. The extension of the geographic range of various Babesia spp. and the movement of donors and blood products around the United States has resulted in the risk extending to non-endemic areas. Clinicians should maintain a high degree of clinical suspicion for transfusion-transmitted babesiosis.

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