Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • Double parasite threat of sleeping sickness in Uganda

Shares

Scientists have warned that Uganda faces major problems dealing with sleeping sickness if two forms of the parasite that cause the disease are brought together by cattle movements.

The best ways of diagnosing or treating sleeping sickness are only effective for one or the other form. Due to the geographical locations of each, this has not yet been a problem in Uganda.

But a study in the British Medical Journal last week (26 November) shows that uncontrolled movements of cattle — which carry the parasite — are moving the eastern form northwards.

Only 150 kilometres now separate them.

The researchers warn that unless action is taken, the two forms will soon meet, leaving Uganda's health authorities struggling to diagnose and treat the disease correctly.

Sleeping sickness kills about 100,000 people a year. The disease's acute form is caused by the parasite Trypanosome brucei rhodesiense in East Africa. A related form, Trypanosome brucei gambiense, causes chronic illness and is found in West and Central Africa.

The research team, led by Susan Welburn of the University of Edinburgh, UK say that the area of Uganda affected by the acute (eastern) form has increased by two and a half times since 1985.

They say it is "a matter of urgency" that international funding is used to set up a laboratory and train staff because of the "continent-wide importance" of the two forms overlapping.

The researchers are urging widespread treatment of livestock to kill the parasites, which are transferred to people via the bites of tsetse flies. They add that existing rules that prevent livestock being sold without prior treatment must be enforced more rigorously.

Link to paper in the British Medical Journal

Reference: British Medical Journal 331, 1238 (2005)

Republish
We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.