Relationship between tick bites and the seroprevalence of Babesia microti and Anaplasma phagocytophila (previously Ehrlichia sp.) in blood donors

David A Leiby, Amy P.S. Chung, Ritchard G Cable, Jonathan Trouern-Trend, Jeffrey McCullough, Mary J Homer, Lisa D Reynolds, Raymond L Houghton, Michael J Lodes, David H Persing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Tick-borne diseases, particularly babesiosis and ehrlichiosis, represent recently emerging infections. Despite an increased recognition of the threat tick-borne agents pose to blood safety, our understanding of the prevalence and transmissibility of these agents in blood donors is limited. STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Babesia microti and Anaplasma phagocytophila (previously Ehrlichia sp.) seroprevalence was determined in random Connecticut and Wisconsin donors, and subsequently in Connecticut donors reporting tick bites. In the interim, a postcard survey regarding tick bites during the previous 6 months was sent to 6,000 random donors in six geographically distinct collection regions. RESULTS: In total, 3 of 999 Wisconsin donors (0.3%) and 6 of 1,007 Connecticut donors (0.6%) had antibodies to B. microti. Of 992 donors tested for A. phagocytophila, 5 Wisconsin donors (0.5%) and 35 Connecticut donors (3.5%) were seropositive. A total of 2,482 donors (41.4%) completed the survey; 103 (4.1%) reported a tick bite. Of 848 Connecticut donors (0.4%) reporting tick bites, 3 had B. microti antibodies, while 8 (0.9%) had A. phagocytophila antibodies. These rates were not significantly different from control donors. CONCLUSION: Blood donors seropositive for B. microti and A. phagocytophila are present in Connecticut and Wisconsin. Donors readily recall previous tick bites, but self-reported bites are not reliable indicators of serologic status. The exposure of blood donors to tick-borne pathogens does suggest a need to better understand the transfusion transmission potential of these agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1585-1591
Number of pages7
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2002


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