African Trypanosomiasis

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African Trypanosomiasis


African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, is a parasitic disease affecting both humans and animals. It is caused by single-celled organisms of the species Trypanosoma brucei. In some regions of sub-Saharan Africa, the disease is endemic.



The parasite T. brucei is transmitted by the African tsetse fly. It is injected through the skin when individuals are bitten by the flies.

It is also known that the parasite is capable of crossing the placenta in pregnant women, and infecting the foetus. Transfusions of infected blood may also cause the disease in the recipient.



T. brucei enters into skin tissue and the lymphatic system following the fly bite, after which it passes into the blood stream. Inside the blood stream, they continue to multiply, while being transported to other sites throughout the body, disrupting the function of major organs and functions.

Eventually, the parasites reach the central nervous system, where they are capable of inducing behavioural and neurological changes; ultimately culminating in coma and death.


Symptoms and diagnosis

Initially, the symptoms of African trypanosomiasis include:

·         A painful bump at the site of the bite;

·         Fever;

·         Headache; and

·         Enlarged lymph nodes.

When the brain and neurological functions become affected, however, the symptoms become much more serious:

·         Fatigue;

·         Difficulty in walking;

·         Depressed consciousness; and

·         Coma and/or death.

Diagnosis of African trypanosomiasis can be confirmed by the identification of T. brucei in a sample of the patient’s bodily fluids, under microscopic examination.



Effective treatment for African trypanosomiasis is achieved by the administration of drugs, either orally or intravenously.


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