Human babesiosis caused by Babesia microti is an emerging tick-borne zoonosis of increasing importance due to its rising incidence and expanding geographic range1. Infection with this organism, an intraerythrocytic parasite of the phylum Apicomplexa, causes a febrile syndrome similar to malaria2. Relapsing disease is common among immunocompromised and asplenic individuals3,4 and drug resistance has recently been reported5. To investigate the origin and genetic diversity of this parasite, we sequenced the complete genomes of 42 B. microti samples from around the world, including deep coverage of clinical infections at endemic sites in the continental USA. Samples from the continental USA segregate into a Northeast lineage and a Midwest lineage, with subsequent divergence of subpopulations along geographic lines. We identify parasite variants that associate with relapsing disease, including amino acid substitutions in the atovaquone-binding regions of cytochrome b (cytb) and the azithromycin-binding region of ribosomal protein subunit L4 (rpl4). Our results shed light on the origin, diversity and evolution of B. microti, suggest possible mechanisms for clinical relapse, and create the foundation for further research on this emerging pathogen.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
- Microbiology (medical)
- Cell Biology