Sleeping sickness
Sleeping sickness
Trypanosoma brucei gambiense

Sleeping sickness

Sleeping sickness is a serious and potentially fatal illness caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei gambiense. The disease is endemic in parts of Africa, and cases have also been reported in Europe and South America. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about the African sleeping sickness, including its symptoms, treatment, and prevention.

What is African sleeping sickness?

African sleeping sickness, also known as African trypanosomiasis, is a serious and potentially fatal illness. It is a relatively rare disease, but it can be deadly. An estimated 60 million people are at risk of contracting the disease in 36 Sub-Saharan African countries while 50,000 to 500,000 die from the disease annually.

The protozoan parasite that causes African trypanosomiasis is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tsetse fly. The majority of cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and the illness is most commonly seen in rural areas where people live in close proximity to livestock.

tsetse fly

How is African trypanosomiasis transmitted?

Sleeping sickness is transmitted by the bite of an infected tsetse fly. The flies become infected by feeding on the blood of an infected animal, such as a cow, goat, or deer. The parasites then enter the fly’s saliva and are injected into the skin of another animal, wild animals, or person when the fly bites them.

What can I do to prevent African sleeping sickness?

There is no vaccine available for African trypanosomiasis, so the best way to prevent the African sleeping sickness is to avoid being bitten by tsetse flies. Tsetse flies are found in sub-Saharan Africa, so people who live or travel in this region should take precautions to avoid being bitten. You can do this by wearing insect repellent, covering up exposed skin, and avoiding areas where tsetse flies are known to live.

What are the symptoms of African sleeping sickness?

The symptoms of African sleeping sickness depend on the stage of the disease. In the early stages, patients may experience fever, headache, joint pain, and itching.

As African trypanosomiasis progresses, patients may develop difficulty sleeping (hence the name), confusion, disorientation, and paralysis. If left untreated, the disease can be fatal.

How is African sleeping sickness diagnosed?

African sleeping sickness is diagnosed by identifying the parasites in a sample of blood or cerebrospinal fluid. In order to do this, a blood sample or cerebrospinal fluid specimen is sent to a laboratory for analysis. The diagnosis can also be confirmed by measuring the level of antibodies against the parasite in the blood.

How is African sleeping sickness treated?

The treatment of African sleeping sickness depends on the stage of the disease. In the early stages, antibiotics may be effective.

Trypanocidal medications and suramin

Trypanocidal medications and suramin are the two primary types of treatment for African sleeping sickness. Trypanocidal drugs are the most common type of treatment, and they are effective in treating both early and late-stage sleeping sickness. Suramin is an older drug that is less commonly used today, but it is still effective in treating late-stage sleeping sickness.

If the disease has progressed to a later stage, patients may require intravenous drugs or surgery. In this case, treatment should always be administered under the supervision of a doctor.

However, treatment for sleeping sickness can be difficult to access in remote areas of Africa, so the World Health Organization recommends that early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the best possible outcome.

What causes African sleeping sickness?

The cause of African sleeping sickness is a tiny, single-celled organism that is passed from humans to animals via the bite of a tsetse fly. When the infected tsetse fly bites another animal or person, the parasites enter its saliva and are injected into the skin.

The organism that causes African sleeping sickness is a protozoan called Trypanosoma brucei gambiense. This type of trypanosome is found in West Africa, and the West African sleeping sickness is the most common form of the disease. There is also a second form of the disease called East African sleeping sickness and it is caused by Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, which is found in East Africa.

What are the possible complications of African sleeping sickness?

The possible complications of African sleeping sickness include death, coma, and brain damage. The parasite that causes the disease can invade and damage the central nervous system. If left untreated, the disease can be fatal. Patients who survive the illness may experience long-term neurological problems, such as seizures, memory loss, and personality changes.

Conclusion

If you think you may have sleeping sickness, it is important to see a doctor immediately so that you can receive the treatment you need. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the best possible outcome. African sleeping sickness is a serious disease, but it can be successfully treated if caught early.

Frequently asked questions

What happens in sleeping sickness?

In sleeping sickness cases, the parasites that cause the disease invade and damage the central nervous system. This can lead to long-term neurological problems, coma, and even death.

Can you survive sleeping sickness?

Yes, patients who receive early diagnosis and treatment can survive sleeping sickness. However, the disease can be fatal if left untreated.

How long does sleeping sickness last?

Sleeping sickness lasts for at least one full year, and sometimes up to three.

How do you get rid of sleeping sickness?

Sleeping sickness can be treated with antibiotics if it is caught in the early stages. If the disease has progressed to a later stage, patients may require intravenous drugs or surgery. Treatment should always be administered under the supervision of a doctor.

What happens in African sleeping sickness?

The parasites that cause African sleeping sickness enter and damage the central nervous system. This can lead to long-term neurological problems, coma, and even death. Patients who receive early diagnosis and treatment can survive sleeping sickness. However, if left unaddressed, it can be deadly. Sleeping sickness can last anywhere from one to three years, although it is rare for it to strike more than once.

Resources

  1. https://atm.eisai.co.jp/english/ntd/africa.html
  2. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/trypanosomiasis-human-african-(sleeping-sickness)#:~:text=African%20trypanosomiasis%20is%20caused%20by,the%20disease%20is%20considered%20fatal.
  3. https://academic.oup.com/jid/article/195/3/311/790227
  4. https://dndi.org/diseases/sleeping-sickness/facts/

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