Healthcare News & Insights

Tick-borne parasite threatens blood supply

Researchers are looking for ways to identify an infectious agent that’s making it’s way into the U.S. blood supply.

A parasitic infection, babesiosis, transmitted through tick bites or during a blood transfusion, has been found in the U.S. blood supply, according to a new report in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

While it’s still relatively uncommon — researchers found only 159 transfusion-associated cases — the discovery is troubling since there is no screening test and donors are often asymptomatic. The study’s authors called the risk of infection “uncommon, but important.”

People with babesiosis infections have flu-like symptoms on the mild end — those who get sicker may have difficulty breathing, organ failure or even death. Those most at risk are patients that already have compromised immune systems.

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