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Step taken towards sleeping sickness cure

By Tim Sandle     Aug 26, 2013 in Health
Scientists in Belgium have taken a step towards creating a protein-based cure for the most common form of global sleeping sickness.
Sleeping sickness refers to a range of different diseases caused by parasites. One of the most common, and hardest to treat, is Human African trypanosomiasis. It is caused by a microscopic organism of the species Trypanosoma brucei and it is transmitted by the tsetse fly. There are different types of infectious agents, of which the gambiense strain is the most common.
The disease occurs in two stages. The first stage is characterized by fever, headaches, joint pains, and itching. Fever is intermittent, with attacks lasting from a day to a week, separated by intervals of a few days to a month or longer. With the second stage, if left untreated, those infected experience a disorganized and fragmented 24-hour rhythm of the sleep-wake cycle, resulting in daytime sleep episodes and nighttime periods of wakefulness.
The main regions of the world where the disease is prevalent are Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Malawi, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania, with a lower number of cases found in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
One of the problems with the gambiense strain of the trypanosoma parasite is resistant to the proteins produced by the immune system to fight the infection. To overcome this, Belgian scientists have developed a protein that seems to be able to kill a wide range of trypanosome parasites, including the gambiense type.
The researchers undertook their study at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles. To help fight the infection, BBC Science reports, they look an immune protein found in the body, called apoL1, and mutated it. This involved enhancing the ability of the protein to cross the protective membrane of the infectious microorganism.
The Belgian study results have been published in the journal Nature. The paper is titled "Mechanism of Trypanosoma brucei gambiense resistance to human serum."
More about Sleeping sickness, Immunity, Trypanosoma parasite, Parasite
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