Sleeping Sickness (African trypanosomiasis)

What causes it?

This sickness is caused by two types of organisms Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense and Trypanosomoa brucei gambiense. It is transferred to humans by the tsetse fly (meaning if you get bitten by one of these flies that has these organisms/parasites, you will also get the sickness) These organisms/parasites will get into your wound and pass your lymphatic system into your bloodstream, and get into all parts of your body and slowly harm you.
(you can usually get it in places like Africa)


Life cycle of the Trypanosoma brucei parasites.

What are the symptoms? How long do they it last? Is it deadly?

When the parasites get to your central nervous system you will get the following symptoms ;

There are two types of parasites :

1) Brucei Gembiense

  • There may be an infection at the place where the fly bit ; or a 2 to 10cm red sore area
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Fever (will occur as the infection is progressing)
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Some infections in the brain after a few months ; Including
    • Confusion
    • Sleeping during the day and waking up at night.
    • A loss of the ability to think
    • Loses bladder control
    • MAY get paralysis --> a it will get difficult to wake up and finally get into a COMA (:

2) Brucei rhodiense

This parasite is worser than the Brucei Gembiense and it develops more quickly.
YOU WILL DIE within nine to twelve months if you do not treat it properly.
Because of the parasites getting into your central nervous system, you will have a lost of appetite, and the parasites also damages the kidneys and heart muscles (which will cause death)
Once these parasites get into your central nervous system, you will definitely die, it is 100 percent fatal.

MUST BE TREATED AT EARLY STAGE, or else it will be fatal and cannot be treated anymore.

The most commonly used drug that is used to treat the sleeping sickness is melarsoprol.
This treatment is extremely painful, the patients describe it as 'fire in the veins' and it is sometimes fatal, about 5% to 20% patients die because of this drug.

Another alternative is a combination of eflornithine and nifurtimox, but this treatment is less ideal as it requires close patient monitoring, and major efforts are needed. Hence, it is very hard to get in Africa.


A video on the tsetse fly :)