Parasite sheds light on sleeping sickness

April 21, 2011

Fresh insight into the survival strategy of the sleeping sickness parasite could help inform treatments for the disease.

University scientists have found that the parasite, which can transform itself into either of two physical forms, has developed a careful balance between these.

One of these types ensures infection in the bloodstream of a victim, and the other type is taken up by the tsetse fly and spread to another person or animal.

Balanced approach

The parasite maintains a trade-off between maintaining enough to beat off the and cause infection, and ensuring sufficient parasites to enable the spread of the disease.

Researchers used a combination of biological and mathematical techniques to show how the parasite balances production of each of the forms.

Their results enable fresh understanding of how the parasite reacts to its surroundings to ensure its survival in the short term as well as the long-term spread of the disease.

Millions at risk

Sleeping sickness, which is spread by the bite of the tsetse fly, affects some 30,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa. Many millions more are considered to be at risk.

The disease affects people and animals and without treatment is considered fatal.

The research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, was published in the journal .

" parasites alter their form in order to ensure their survival and spread. We hope that, having discovered more about how these parasites behave, we will be able to develop ways of interfering with their survival strategy and interrupt the spread of this disease," said Professor Keith Matthews, School of Biological Sciences.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

The 'love hormone' may quiet tinnitus

September 23, 2016

(HealthDay)—People suffering from chronic ringing in the ears—called tinnitus—may find some relief by spraying the hormone oxytocin in their nose, a small initial study by Brazilian researchers suggests.

Bile acid uptake inhibitor prevents NASH / fatty liver in mice

September 21, 2016

Drugs that interfere with bile acid recycling can prevent several aspects of NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis) in mice fed a high-fat diet, scientists from Emory University School of Medicine and Children's Healthcare of ...

New therapeutic target for Crohn's disease

September 20, 2016

Research from the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) identifies a promising new target for future drugs to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The study, published today in Cell Reports, also indicates ...

Mosquitoes, Zika and biotech regulation

September 19, 2016

In a new Policy Forum article in Science, NC State professor Jennifer Kuzma argues that federal authorities are missing an opportunity to revise outdated regulatory processes not fit for modern innovations in biotechnology, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.