How Nagana is carried by tsetse flies

May 17, 2018, University of Bristol
Scanning electron micrograph of mother (bottom) and daughter (top) trypanosomes. Credit: Lori Peacock and Wendy Gibson; specimen prepared by Gini Tilly, Wolfson Bioimaging Facility (University of Bristol).

Researchers at the University of Bristol have revealed new details on how the animal disease Nagana is spread by tsetse flies in Africa.

When are bitten by bloodsucking , they don't just get a painful bite, as the flies may be carrying a cargo of deadly microbes, .

These microbes are squirted into the skin of the animal as the fly feeds and invade the bloodstream, causing the severe and sometimes fatal disease Nagana or African Animal Trypanosomiasis.

Most livestock are susceptible to this disease including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses.

Tsetse flies pick up the microbes when they take blood from an infected animal. The blood is digested inside the gut of the fly, but the trypanosomes need to find their way back to the mouthparts so that they can be passed on to the next animal the fly bites.

The University of Bristol's Trypanosome Research Group has now revealed details of how these tiny microbes achieve this incredible journey from the fly's gut to its mouthparts.

Before they migrate, the trypanosomes accumulate in a particular part of the tsetse fly gut. This allowed researchers to study this population of microbes in detail over a time course of several days to find out exactly what they do.

Tsetse fly. Credit: Tim Colborn (University of Bristol)

Professor Wendy Gibson from Bristol's School of Biological Sciences, led the research which has been published today in the journal PloS Pathogens.

She said: "The key was getting large numbers of trypanosomes just at the start of their migration. We could then study these in detail by microscopy over the course of the next few days."

The trypanosomes normally attach to the inside of the tsetse fly's feeding apparatus, but readily latched onto a glass microscope slide in the lab.

The shape of each cell changed from long and thin to short and stout, before each then produced a new daughter cell, much smaller than itself. It is these daughter cells that go on to produce the found in the fly's saliva.

Professor Gibson added: "This research contributes to our fundamental knowledge about the that cause Nagana, a that severely affects livestock health and productivity across the tsetse-infested regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

"In the long term, understanding how trypanosomes develop inside the fly may lead to new methods of controlling the spread of Nagana in Africa."

Explore further: How dangerous liaisons between human and animal parasites generate new strains of disease

More information: 'Shape-shifting trypanosomes: Flagellar shortening followed by asymmetric division in Trypanosoma congolense from the tsetse proventriculus' by L. Peacock, C. Kay, M. Bailey and W. Gibson, PloS Pathogens, 2018.

Related Stories

Sex matters for microbes

January 3, 2014

Caught in the act! Researchers from the University of Bristol have observed mating for the first time in the microbes responsible for African sleeping sickness. This tropical disease is caused by trypanosomes, single-celled ...

New insights into the world of trypanosomes

August 23, 2017

Single specimens of the vermicular pathogens causing sleeping sickness swim inside the gut of the tsetse fly between blood cells which the fly has ingested from an infected mammal. This is where they start their week-long ...

News from the pathogen that causes sleeping sickness

June 22, 2017

The life-threatening African trypanosomiasis, also called sleeping sickness, is caused by protozoa of the species Trypanosoma brucei. A team at the Biocentre of the Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg in Bavaria, ...

Recommended for you

Bioceramics power the mantis shrimp's famous punch

October 18, 2018

Researchers in Singapore can now explain what gives the mantis shrimp, a marine crustacean that hunts by battering its prey with its club-like appendages, the most powerful punch in the animal kingdom. In a paper publishing ...

Expanding the optogenetics toolkit

October 18, 2018

Controlling individual brain cells using light-sensitive proteins has proven to be a powerful tool for probing the brain's complexities. As this branch of neuroscience has expanded, so has the demand for a diverse palette ...

Staying a step ahead of the game

October 18, 2018

Trypanosoma brucei, which causes sleeping sickness, evades the immune system by repeatedly altering the structure of its surface coat. Sequencing of its genome and studies of its 3-D genome architecture have now revealed ...

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.