We’re all familiar with the unpleasantness of bug bites. Not only can be itchy and painful – the thought of a creepy-crawler sinking its teeth into you can be a little unsettling.
But some bug bites can come with much more serious consequences. A bite from certain ticks can potentially inoculate you with harmful and even deadly pathogens. These silent intruders can sneak their way from a tick directly into your body – wreaking havoc along the way.
Today we’re going to explore two of these silent and sneaky invaders known as Anaplasma and Ehrlichia. Let’s dive in.
Anaplasma and Ehrlichia: What Are They?
Anaplasma and Ehrlichia are actually the names of two distinct bacterial species. They’re typically grouped together because they’re both rickettsia-like bacteria belonging to the Anaplasmataceae family.1
These microscopic bacteria are also often mentioned in the same breath because they’re both considered Lyme co-infections. Now, let’s take a \deeper look at each of these bacterial species before diving into exactly what a co-infection is.
A bacterial infection of Ehrlichia in humans causes a condition known as Ehrlichiosis. Ehrlichiosis can potentially be caused by several strains of Ehrlichia including:2
- Ehrlichia chaffeensis
- Ehrlichia ewingii
- Ehrlichia muris-like
Although Ehrlichiosis can technically be caused by several strains of this bacteria, the vast majority of cases are caused by the contraction of Ehrlichia chaffeensis. Ehrlichiosis cases are mostly seen in the southeastern and south-central regions of the United States, where its primary vector – the lone star tick – resides.3
This bacterial infection is triggered by an organism more specifically known as Anaplasma phagocytophilum. In humans, this microscopic invader causes a condition referred to as Anaplasmosis. Anaplasmosis is primarily seen in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, upper Midwest, and West Coast regions of the United States where its primary vector – the ixodid tick – is found.3
So, What Is a Co-Infection?
A co-infection refers to the simultaneous contraction of more than one pathogen. You see, the problem with ticks and other blood-sucking insects is that they’re often harboring multiple infectious micro-organisms. That means, if you get bitten by a tick, there’s a high probability that you’ll be exposed to (and potentially infected with) more than one organism. When more than one pathogen is contracted from a single bite, they’re called co-infections.
And Anaplasma and Ehrlichia have been identified as co-infections to Lyme disease – which is the most commonly contracted tick-borne illness.
Other common Lyme co-infections include Bartonella and Babesia. Co-infections can be tricky and particularly difficult to treat for a couple of reasons. For starters, symptoms can be overlapping and vague, making an accurate diagnosis difficult to pinpoint.
What’s worse, co-infections can have a synergistic effect – essentially amplifying each other’s symptoms and duration.4 Now let’s take a look at exactly what kind of symptoms co-infections with Anaplasma and Ehrlichia can cause.
What Are the Symptoms of Anaplasma and Ehrlichia?
The symptoms and effects on the human body are the same in both Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis. Contraction of these microbes can cause symptoms ranging from nearly asymptomatic to life-threatening and may include:5,6,7
- Fever and chills
- Myalgia, or muscle and joint pain
- Digestive upset like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain
- Acute weight loss
- Disorientation or change in mental status
In some cases, these symptoms can begin to spiral into more serious conditions like:5,6,7
- Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)
- Inflammatory syndromes
- Meningitis or encephalitis
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome
- Kidney failure
You might be wondering, with such a wide range of symptoms, how exactly can you be sure if you’ve contracted Anaplasma or Ehrlichia?
How Are Anaplasma and Ehrlichia Diagnosed?
Diagnosing Anaplasma and Ehrlichia can be tricky and often requires some detective work. One of the first clues is to determine if you’ve been bitten by a tick or if there’s a possibility that you’ve been bitten recently.
If a tick-borne infection is suspected, blood and liver tests may be able to pinpoint certain abnormalities that may indicate ehrlichiosis or anaplasmosis such as:8,9
- Leukopenia – or a reduction in white blood cells
- Thrombocytopenia – or a low platelet count
- Deviating liver function tests (like elevated aminotransferase levels)
Blood smears can also a visualization a mulberry-shaped cluster called morulae that forms when the bacteria multiply within blood cells.10 But oftentimes, diagnosis requires some trial and error and ruling out of other possible conditions. This is especially true when multiple pathogens and co-infections may have been contracted.
But the good news is, Anaplasma and Ehrlichia are treatable.
Anaplasma and Ehrlichia Treatment
Anaplasma and Ehrlichia can both be treated successfully with a course of antibiotics – typically doxycycline with rifampin. While antibiotics may be able to successfully eliminate these bacteria, the truth is, recovering from a tick-borne illness is not always so straightforward.
This is particularly true when dealing with a host of co-infections that go along with Lyme disease. In these cases, healing requires a big-picture holistic approach. One that prioritizes your immune health and allows your entire body to come back to center.
So, if you’ve been diagnosed with, or are recovering from a tick-borne illness like Anaplasma or Ehrlichia, here’s what I recommend:
- Load up on immune and health-boosting nutrients: The nutrients you consume are the building blocks your body uses to heal and come back to homeostasis. So it’s crucial to build your meals around inflammation-fighting foods like fresh fruits and veggies, satiating proteins, and healthy fats. And it can be extra helpful to fill in any nutritional gaps with immune-boosting supplements like Gut Immune, Immune Booster, CytoBlox, and Mineral Essentials.
- Minimize your toxic burden: Our near-constant and ever-increasing exposure to environmental toxins can hinder your body’s ability to bounce back and fight off infection. You see, if toxins accumulate in your body, your body’s detoxification mechanisms can get burnt out and essentially run your immune system into the ground. But enhancing your body’s natural detoxification capabilities by reducing your toxic burden can help keep your immune system in tip-top shape. If you want to learn more about decreasing your toxic burden, head over and check out my article How to Boost Your Immune System by Reducing Your Toxic Burden.
- Keep your gut happy and healthy: If your gut isn’t functioning optimally, it’s almost guaranteed that your entire body is off-kilter. So prioritizing the health of your gut is essential to improve your overall health and help your body recover after an infection. Click here to learn more about how you can show your gut some love.
- Catch plenty of z’s: Fighting off and recovering from infection requires copious amounts of energy. So it’s critical to ensure you’re logging at least 7-8 hours of high-quality sleep each and every night. Consistently prioritizing rest will help keep your body running on all cylinders so it can better defend itself against any future invasions by infectious microbes. If you have a hard time falling or staying asleep, it can be helpful to incorporate an all-natural sleep aid like Sleep Essentials or Dream Powder to help you drift off into a peaceful slumber.
While all of these steps will certainly help you recover from or fight off any pathogens, the best medicine is always prevention. So, while you can’t entirely avoid the possibility of coming into contact with ticks or other disease-carrying insects, there are some steps you can take to significantly decrease your chances of getting bit by one of these blood-sucking bugs.
So, How Can I Protect Myself Against Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and Other Tick-Borne Diseases?
One of the very best ways to protect yourself against Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and other tick-borne illnesses is to take diligent precautions when going places that may put you at risk of insect or tick bites. Here’s what you can do: 11,12
- If walking outside, be sure to stay on trails and avoid walking in tall grass or through the woods where you’re more likely to come into contact with ticks and insects
- If you’ll be in a grassy or wooded area, wear long pants and closed shoes
- Use insect repellent when outside
- Wear lightly-colored clothes so you can more easily spot ticks or other insects on you
- If spending time outdoors, inspect your clothes and hair regularly for signs of ticks
- Closely inspect your home or anywhere you’re staying for signs of rodents which are notorious for carrying ticks and other disease-carrying insects
While it’s impossible to entirely avoid the possibility of being bitten by an insect vector that could potentially be carrying infectious microorganisms, taking steps to avoid a bite can go a long way.
When It Comes to Your Health, You’re in the Driver’s Seat
Infections like Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and other tick-borne illnesses can be challenging and complicated to diagnose and address. And the implications of these microorganisms can be serious and even life-threatening. So protecting yourself against these sneaky and destructive intruders is critical.
And the good news is, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to defending yourself against potentially harmful microbes, boosting your natural defenses, and optimizing your overall health. When it comes to protecting and promoting your own well-being, knowledge and action are your most powerful weapons.
This is why I’m dedicated to arming you with easy-to-understand and implement resources – so you have all the tools you need to experience truly radiant health.
So, if you enjoyed this article and you’re ready to take your health to the next level, head over and check out more articles on my blog – it’s chock-full of helpful resources just like this. Or better yet, sign up for my newsletter and get all of my best advice delivered straight to your inbox – all you have to do is enter your name and email address in the form below.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you surprised to learn about Ehrlichia and Anaplasma’s impact on your body? What steps are you taking to protect yourself and give your immune system a boost? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below!
- Rickettsiae – Medical Microbiology – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
- Ehrlichia & Anaplasmosis Diseases | IGeneX Tick Talk
- Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis – Infectious Diseases – Merck Manuals Professional Edition
- Lyme Disease Co-Infection | NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
- Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis Subcommittee Report to the TBDWG | HHS.gov
- Anaplasmosis Information for Health Professionals – Minnesota Dept. of Health (state.mn.us)
- Impact of Co-Infections in Lyme Disease (opendermatologyjournal.com)
- Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis – Infectious Diseases – Merck Manuals Professional Edition
- Ehrlichia and Anaplasma – Infectious Disease Advisor
- Ehrlichia and Anaplasma | LymeDisease.org
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.