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Trypanosomiasis

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What is Trypanosoma?

The infection caused by Trypanosoma protozoa is called trypanosomiasis. It is also called sleeping sickness and African trypanosomiasis as it is prevalent in different parts of this continent. It is considered endemic in more than 36 sub-Saharan countries in Africa. It is a fatal disease with a high mortality rate. Without treatment, it can cause vital damages to a patient. In this article, we will study elaborately how this disease spreads and what causes it.


Trypanosoma: Overview

As mentioned earlier, trypanosome is a protozoan species that causes sleeping sickness. The scientific term used to identify this disease is called African trypanosomiasis. It is a fatal disease claiming a lot of lives in the African countries located in and around the Sahara Desert.


It is a tropical disease that causes various kinds of symptoms when the protozoa enter the host. If not treated on time, the patient can die from its consequences. The pathogen is carried by Tsetse flies and is transmitted from their bites. This disease is found to be a big health risk for the people living in the rural areas of African countries.

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Characteristics of Trypanosoma

The Trypanosoma characteristics are:

  • The parasite belongs to the protozoan genus Trypanosoma.

  • The carrier tsetse flies fall in the Glossina genus.

  • Apart from humans, animals also host this parasite.

  • The disease is transmitted to humans from animals via flies carrying the pathogen. These flies bite and transmit the protozoa to the human body. It then transmits from one human to the other via the same flies.

  • It has been found that only a few species of these flies can harbor the parasites. This is why only sub-Saharan countries are endemic even though its different species can be found in various other parts of the world.

  • People who practice agriculture, fishing, animal husbandry, hunting, etc are more prone to contracting this disease.

  • It can start in a small spot but can take a humongous shape and convert into an endemic in no time.

  • There are two different forms of human Trypanosoma lower classifications. Trypanosoma brucei gambiense comprises 95% of the cases in 24 noted countries in Africa. A person can be infected with this pathogen even for years without showing any major symptoms.

  • The second lower classification is Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense. It can be found in 13 countries and contribute to only 5% of the reported cases. The symptoms appear a few weeks or months after the first bite.

  • Another format of this disease exists in Latin America. It is known as Chagas disease or American trypanosomiasis. The vector carrying this pathogen is kissing bugs. They bite and defecate on the spot. The host then scratches and spreads the infection.

  • When the disease reaches the advanced stage, the parasites attack the central nervous system crossing the blood-brain barrier. It can literally change a person’s personality and alter his biological clock. His way of sociological behavior can abruptly change. In fact, the person will feel difficulty in speaking.


Symptoms of Trypanosomiasis

Now that we know what is trypanosome, let us find out the symptoms that help us identify this fatal amebic infection.


The Specific Trypanosoma Symptoms are:

  • Unclear speech when the pathogens cross the blood-brain barrier and affect the central nervous system

  • Irregular seizures

  • Irritation in the behavior of the infected person

  • Swelling inside the brain visible from the outside

  • Lymph nodes swelling

  • Extreme weakness and fatigue

  • Progressive confusion

  • Changes in personality

  • Aching muscles and joints

  • Sleeplessness

  • Rashes

  • Severe headache

  • Mood changes

  • Difficulty in maintaining balance during ambulatory movements


How to Prevent Trypanosoma

Now that we know the Trypanosoma causes and symptoms, it is easier to figure out the prevention techniques.

  • Maintaining hygiene in the habitats and working locations

  • Using mosquito nets at night

  • Application of insecticides in and around the house or accommodations

  • Application of insect repellant on the skin to keep away the flies

  • Early diagnosis and treatment of the infected person and the entire family as the symptoms often do not appear quickly

  • Utilization of fly traps installed around the busy public areas to kill the flies

  • Using proper clothes to cover the body while working and sleeping

  • It has been found that mothers can transmit this disease to the fetus via the placenta. It can also get transmitted through sexual intercourse and contaminated needles. Hence, measures should be taken to ensure health in these aspects.


Treatment of Trypanosoma

As per the Trypanosoma characteristics, it is a disease caused by a protozoan species. The prime treatment plan is based on anti-amebic medications. First, the diagnosis of the infection is done to understand its intensity. There is no cure but an early diagnosis can help a patient to recuperate.


Medicines that can cross the blood-brain barrier are used to kill the parasites. A patient is then kept under medical monitoring for at least 24 months to check for relapse. The screening of this disease alone costs a lot and is still a healthcare hurdle we need to overcome. Its treatment also takes time as the parasite is stubborn and remains active for longer periods.


This is the summary of trypanosome, its characteristics, symptoms, and treatment. This disease is considered endemic in African and Latin American countries. It spreads quite fast and remains hidden inside the hosts for years. This disease is still a threat with a high mortality rate.

Last updated date: 29th Sep 2023
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FAQs on Trypanosomiasis

1. How can you study the morphology of the trypanosome pathogen?

If you check the Trypanosoma diagram, you will find out the morphological characteristics of this protozoan species. It is a unicellular eukaryotic protozoan with a prominent nucleus.

2.Why do we need medicines that can cross our blood-brain barrier?

Medicines that can cross the blood-brain barrier can kill the pathogens affecting our central nervous system. For instance, suramin and pentamidine can cross this barrier to kill Trypanosoma pathogens.


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