Fly gut bacteria could control sleeping sickness

May 11, 2010

A new bacterial species, found in the gut of the fly that transmits African sleeping sickness, could be engineered to kill the parasite that causes the disease. The study, published in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, could lead to new approaches to control this fatal infection that is becoming resistant to drug therapy.

Scientists from IRD, the French Research Institute for Development in Montpellier, France isolated the novel bacterium from the midgut of the tsete fly that also harbours the protozoan Trypanosoma brucei gambiense (Tbg), responsible for , known as sleeping sickness. The new bacterium was named Serratia glossinae after genomic analysis showed it was closely genetically linked to other bacteria in the Serratia genus. Interestingly one of the species in this genus is able to kill another trypanosome that causes Chagas' disease in South America. This has prompted the group to hypothesise that the Serratia group of bacteria has the potential to be exploited to treat trypanosomiasis.

More than 60 million people are exposed to in Sub-Saharan Africa. The causative agent, Tbg, can be transmitted through the bites of infected flies that feed on human blood. The parasite multiplies in the blood of infected individuals and may eventually invade the brain. Infections by Tbg are often asymptomatic for months or years and can remain undetected until patients are in advanced stages of the disease. Without treatment, these infections are fatal.

The research could contribute to new treatment strategies that are desperately needed to fight African . Current drugs are expensive and are not always effective due to increasing resistance of Tbg. "Our work could lead to an alternative vector-based approach that exploits selected strains of bacteria naturally present in the fly's gut to either kill the parasite, or prevent it from establishing itself in the gut," explained Dr Anne Geiger who led the study.

Containing the spread of T. brucei could also have a huge impact on the African economy. "Cattle can also be affected by a form of trypanosomiasis, called 'nagana', that causes an estimated loss as high as US $4.5 billion dollars each year to African agriculture," explained Dr Geiger. "If we managed to successfully control parasite transmission by the tsetse fly, the medical, social and economic effect would be considerable," she said.

Explore further: Overwhelmed west Africa escalates Ebola response

Provided by Society for General Microbiology

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sleeping sickness finding could lead to earlier diagnosis

Apr 14, 2008

Sleeping sickness creates a metabolic 'fingerprint' in the blood and urine, which could enable a new test to be developed to diagnose the disease, according to new research published today in the journal Proceedings of th ...

Revealing secrets of 'African sleeping sickness'

Oct 27, 2008

Scientists in the United Kingdom and Russia are reporting identification of a long-sought chink in the armor of the parasite that causes African sleeping sickness, a parasitic disease that kills at least 50,000 people each ...

Nuclear science to fight sleeping sickness

Nov 27, 2009

The International Atomic Energy Agency on Friday announced an agreement to help African nations battle the tsetse fly, the main carrier of parasites that causes sleeping sickness with its bites.

Recommended for you

Overwhelmed west Africa escalates Ebola response

27 minutes ago

West Africa intensified its response to the deadly Ebola epidemic on Sunday, with Sierra Leone uncovering scores of dead bodies during a 72-hour shutdown and Liberia announcing 1,000 hospital beds.

Sierra Leone reaches final day of Ebola lockdown

3 hours ago

Frustrated residents complained of food shortages in some neighborhoods of Sierra Leone's capital on Sunday as the country reached the third and final day of a sweeping, unprecedented lockdown designed to ...

Sierra Leone faces criticism over Ebola shutdown

Sep 20, 2014

Sierra Leone began the second day of a 72-hour nationwide shutdown aimed at containing the spread of the deadly Ebola virus on Saturday amid criticism that the action was a poorly planned publicity stunt.

Presence of peers ups health workers' hand hygiene

Sep 19, 2014

(HealthDay)—The presence of other health care workers improves hand hygiene adherence, according to a study published in the October issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

User comments : 0