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Understanding Sleeping Sickness

Sleeping sickness or Human African trypanosomiasis is caused by the bite of an insect , called the glossinid tse-tse fly//, which passes on the parasite called the trypanosome, to human beings through the bite. There has been a come-back of this disease over the past two decades in Sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) has tried to collect the data of the number of people suffering this sickness, which is about 300,000, as mentioned in a 1998 communiqué. Evolved screening and treatment measures have indeed resulted in a considerable decline in the infection rates of this disease.

Sleeping sickness classically manifests itself in two forms, corresponding to two parasite subspecies. The chronic form, encountered in Central and West African countries, is caused by Trypanosoma brucei gambiense (T.b. gambiense). Its development cycle in the host vaires greatly, from a few months to several years. The acute form of the disease is brought on by Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense (T.b. rhodesiense), in southern and eastern African countries. The infection it induces takes effect after a few weeks. More virulent than the chronic form, its development cycle is also more rapid and, consequently, clinical detection can be made earlier.

However, it is increasingly recognized that the existence of these two forms, the chronic one due to T. b. gambiense and the acute one provoked by T. b. rhodesiense, only partly reflect the real mechanisms at work. Concerning the Gambian form, the screening and treatment teams indicates the occurrence of several categories of subjects infected: some show Glossina fuscipes gorged with blood affected by classical chronic forms of the disease; others bear severe rapidly developing forms; still other people show no symptoms of human African trypanosomiasis, in spite of a long period of infection. This diversity in host clinical presentation in reaction to infection can have several sources: the host's ability to r
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