Researchers make breakthrough in the fight against African sleeping sickness

April 15, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at the University of St Andrews are one step closer to breaking the tetse fly's grip on Africa's health and economy. The bloodsucking fly, which carries the parasite Trypanosoma brucei, is responsible for the spread of the deadly African sleeping sickness and the related disease Nagana in cattle.

Each year infects up to 60,000 people, kills three million livestock and causes more than £2 billion in economic losses.

But now researchers in the University of St Andrews’ Biomedical Sciences Research Complex have developed a strategy to block the parasite’s use of a protein crucial to its defence against the human immune system.

By investigating a specific gene involved in the production of lipids, the researchers have been able to stop the parasite from using this major and essential protein, resulting in the parasites death.

There are only two drugs available to combat , and both have significant drawbacks. One is an arsenic-based drug that kills five percent of users. The other is expensive, requires prolonged hospital treatment and is only partially effective.

This novel approach of interfering with this essential process has the real potential to provide cheap, safe drugs, to help overcome poverty and disease in Africa.

Dr Terry Smith, who led the research, said, “A fundamental understanding of how the makes and uses lipids, has led us to this significant finding, so that we now have a better comprehension of a crucial mechanism the parasite uses to evades our immune system. We are now moving towards finding compounds that stop this parasite specific process, giving us a real opportunity to develop effective, safe, cheap drugs against this Neglected disease.”

The research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, was conducted in the University’s suite of state-of-the-art, restricted-access labs which opened in 2008. The labs, built at a cost of nearly £1 million, are now providing an invaluable asset for investigating a range of infectious diseases.

Explore further: Put sleeping sickness bug to sleep

Related Stories

Revealing secrets of 'African sleeping sickness'

October 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 ...

Sleeping sickness finding could lead to earlier diagnosis

April 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 the ...

Breakthrough in treatment of sleeping sickness

April 3, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists at the University of Glasgow have made a significant breakthrough in the treatment of Sleeping Sickness, otherwise known as Human African Trypanosomasis.

Recommended for you

Mammal long thought extinct in Australia resurfaces

December 15, 2017

A crest-tailed mulgara, a small carnivorous marsupial known only from fossilised bone fragments and presumed extinct in NSW for more than century, has been discovered in Sturt National Park north-west of Tibooburra.

Finding a lethal parasite's vulnerabilities

December 15, 2017

An estimated 100 million people around the world are infected with Strongyloides stercoralis, a parasitic nematode, yet it's likely that many don't know it. The infection can persist for years, usually only causing mild symptoms. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.