Blood Parasites

Some parasites can be bloodborne. This means:

  • the parasite can be found in the bloodstream of infected people; and
  • the parasite might be spread to other people through exposure to an infected person's blood (for example, by blood transfusion or by sharing needles or syringes contaminated with blood).

Examples of parasitic diseases that can be bloodborne include African trypanosomiasis, babesiosis, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, malaria, and toxoplasmosis. In nature, many bloodborne parasites are spread by insects (vectors), so they are also referred to as vector-borne diseases. Toxoplasma gondii is not transmitted by an insect (vector).

In the United States, the risk for vector-borne transmission is very low for these parasites except for some Babesia species.

Some parasites spend most or all of their life cycle in the bloodstream, such as Babesia and Plasmodium species. Parasites, such as Trypanosoma cruzi, might be found in the blood early in an infection (the acute phase) and then at much lower levels later (the chronic phase of infection). Other parasites only migrate (travel) through the blood to get to another part of the body.

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