Babesiosis Infecting U.S. Blood Supply

Babesiosis, a tick-borne infection, is threatening the U.S. blood supply, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday.

There are currently no diagnostic tests approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to screen for the infection before people donate blood. 

A 31-year study by the CDC has provided evidence that suggests the parasitic infection may be increasing. 

Babesia infections cause fever, anemia, chills and fatigue, but can also result in organ failure and death. The disease mostly occurs in seven U.S. states in the Northeast and Upper Midwest in the spring and summer.

However, "Babesia microti has become the most frequently reported transfusion-transmitted parasite in the United States," CDC researchers wrote in the report.

"Our findings underscore the year-round vulnerability of the U.S. blood supply -- especially, but not only -- in and near babesiosis-endemic areas."

"They also highlight the importance of multi-agency collaborative efforts to detect, investigate, and document transfusion cases; to assess the risks for transfusion transmission; and thereby, to inform the scope of prevention measures."

Premature infants appear to be most in danger of babesiosis infections -- researchers at the University of Nebraska looked a seven cases of transfusion-associated Babesiosis in premature infants and found that blood transfusions from two infected units of blood caused all seven of the cases.

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