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Monitoring human babesiosis emergence through vector surveillance New England, USA.

ABSTRACT

Human babesiosis is an emerging tick-borne disease caused by the intraerythrocytic protozoan Babesia microti. Its geographic distribution is more limited than that of Lyme disease, despite sharing the same tick vector and reservoir hosts. The geographic range of babesiosis is expanding, but knowledge of its range is incomplete and relies exclusively on reports of human cases. We evaluated the utility of tick-based surveillance for monitoring disease expansion by comparing the ratios of the 2 infections in humans and ticks in areas with varying B. microti endemicity. We found a close association between human disease and tick infection ratios in long-established babesiosis-endemic areas but a lower than expected incidence of human babesiosis on the basis of tick infection rates in new disease-endemic areas. This finding suggests that babesiosis at emerging sites is underreported. Vector-based surveillance can provide an early warning system for the emergence of human babesiosis.