NYMC > News and Events > News Archives

NYMC Researchers Aim to Transform Treatment of Babesiosis

New York Medical College (NYMC) researchers have made great strides in the fight against the tick-borne illnesses.

July 18, 2019
Dana G. Mordue and Gary P. Wormser headshot
NYMC Researchers Aim to Transform Treatment of Babesiosis

The pair discovered that the drug Tafenoquine, which recently gained FDA approval to treat some species of Plasmodium, the parasite that causes Malaria, may also be extremely successful for the treatment of Babesiosis.

Prevalent in New York State and found throughout the United States, Babesiosis is the lesser known, extremely dangerous tick-borne illness that is a particular health threat to the very old, very young and those patients with compromised immune systems. Caused by parasites that are primarily transmitted by tick bite, the number of reported U.S. cases of Babesiosis continues to grow—yet the current treatment for Babesiosis is often ineffective for immuno-suppressed patients.  “Disease severity can range from asymptomatic to fatal and individuals who are asymptomatic can remain carriers of the parasite in their blood for more than a year.  As a result, transfusion-transmitted Babesiosis has become a serious problem because blood donors can donate contaminated blood without knowing they are infected,” explains Dr. Mordue. “Developing potent drugs for Babesiosis that rapidly kill parasites, even in immune-suppressed individuals, would be a tremendous advance for treatment,” she says.

According to Dr. Mordue, clinical trials on Tafenoquine as a treatment of Babesiosis can be expected within the next two years. In the meantime, “Since Tafenoquine is a drug that is approved by the FDA, physicians can currently use the drug for Babesiosis off-label. This may be particularly important for immune-suppressed individuals for which current treatments are not always effective.”