Babesia Species

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Microscopic (1-2.5 µm) protozoan parasites that infect red blood cells and are spread by certain ticks.

Growth Conditions

Babesia species are cultured in hamster erythrocytes and cell culture with fetal calf serum, RPMI 1640 medium, and antibiotics.

Health Hazards

Host RangeRodents (mainly White-Footed Mouse), Ixodes scapularis ticks, and humans.
Modes of TransmissionBite by infected tick; blood transfusion with contaminated blood; infected mother to baby; needle stick; open wound.
Signs and SymptomsCan be asymptomatic. Common symptoms include:
  • Flu-like symptoms – fever, chills, sweats
  • Malaise, arthralgia, headache  Gastrointestinal symptoms – anorexia and nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Less common: cough, sore throat, depression, photophobia, red eyes
  • Mild enlargement of spleen, mild enlargement of liver, or jaundice may occur in some patients
  • Persons without a spleen can develop severe disease, even death
Infectious DoseUnknown.
Incubation Period

1-6 weeks following tick bite; 1-9+ weeks following transfusion

Medical Precautions/Treatment


Apply repellents with DEET to skin and clothing; avoid areas with overgrown grasses or brush; lessen amount of exposed skin; shower soon after being outdoors; check body for ticks; intervene before blood donation if donor has ever been infected.


None available.


Babesiosis is usually treated for at least 7-10 days with a combination of two medications atovaquone PLUS azithromycin; OR clindamycin PLUS quinine.



Emory Requirements

Report any exposure.

Laboratory Hazards

Laboratory Acquired Infections (LAIs)

None reported.



Supplemental References

CDCBabesiosis Information

Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories

Containment Requirements

BSL-2For activities with infective stages of the parasite. PPE in conjunction with a BSC are required when working with cultures, tissue homogenates, or blood containing parasites.

For activities with infective stages of the parasite.

Spill Procedures


Notify others working in the lab. Allow aerosols to settle. Don appropriate PPE. Cover area of the spill with paper towels and apply an EPA registered disinfectant effective against non- enveloped viruses, working from the perimeter towards the center. Allow 30 minutes of contact time before disposal and cleanup of spill materials.


Contact Emory’s Biosafety Officer (404-727-8863), the EHSO Office (404-727-5922), or The Spill Response Team (404-727-2888).

Exposure Procedures

Mucous membrane

Flush eyes, mouth or nose for 15 minutes at eyewash station.

Other Exposures

Wash area with soap and water for 15 minutes.


Immediately report incident to supervisor, complete an employee incident report in PeopleSoft.

Medical Followup 

7am-4pm (OIM): EUH (404-686-7941) EUHM (404-686-7106) WW (404-728-6431)

After Hours: OIM NP On Call 404-686-5500 PIC# 50464

Needle Stick (OIM): EUH (404-686-8587) EUHM (404-686-2352)

Yerkes: Maureen Thompson Office (404-727-8012) Cell (404-275-0963)






Survival Outside Host


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Minimum PPE Requirements

At minimum, personnel are required to don gloves, closed toed shoes, lab coat, and appropriate face and eye protection prior to working with Babesia species. Additional PPE may be required depending on lab specific SOPs.

Additional Precautions

Work in BSC required when working with cultures, tissue homogenates, or blood containing parasites.