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Babesiosis in Upstate NY: PCR and RNA Evidence of
Co-Infection with Babesia microti Among Ixodidae Ticks in Dutchess County, NY

New York City / New Jersey April 1999
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Background:
Until recently, Babesiosis has not been recognized as existing in upper NY State. Meldrum et al (Clin. Infect. Dis. 1992 Dec; 15(6): 1019-1230) reported epidemiological data on 136 cases of human babesiosis, reported from laboratories and clinicians in the State of NY from 1982 to 1991. All but two patients who had traveled to Nantucket Island, in Massachusetts, acquired the disease in Suffolk County, Long Island. This report constitutes the first evidence of co-infection among Ixodidae ticks with Babesiosis in Upstate NY.

Methodology:
30 ticks preserved in ethanol were sent from the laboratory of Dr. Richard Ostfeld at the Institute of Ecosystems Studies in Millbrook, NY to IGeneX Laboratories in Palo Alto, California, where PCR analysis was performed, in November 1998. 192 serum specimens were sent from the medical office of Dr. Richard Horowitz to IGeneX Laboratories from January 1998 until November 1998 for PCR (DNA) and/or RNA analysis for Babesia microti.

Results:
13/30 ticks were PCR positive for Babesia microti, yielding an infection rate of 43.3%. 72 of 189 serum specimens were PCR positive, 38 of 58 serum specimens tested were RNA positive, and 15 were both PCR and RNA positive, yielding infection rates of 38% and 66% respectively among the population tested.

Conclusion:
Ixodes ticks in Dutchess County, NY are co-infected with Babesia microti. Ostfelt et al (Journal of Medical Entomology 35: 901-903) reported data from adult ticks collected at the Institute for Ecosystem Studies in Autumn 1996, where 188 ticks were examined for both Borrelia and Ehrlichia, but not for Babesia. 66% were infected with Borrelia, 42.6% with Ehrlichia, and 28.2% with both organisms. Lyme disease patients with chronic persistent symptomatology in Upstate NY therefore need to be tested and appropriately treated for multiple co-infections, including Babesiosis.

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