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sleeping sickness

Trypanosoma gambiens causes the disease of sleeping sickness or Gambian trypanosomiasis in man. Sleeping sickness can be fatal if not treated. It is spread by the bite of an infected tsetse fly (Glossina Genus), a species native to the African continent. The bite of tsetse fly causes local irritation which subsides after a few days. Infection is caused by the inoculation of trypanosomes into human blood stream. Trypanosomes invade lymphatic glands also resulting in their swelling. Sleeping sickness is caused when the parasites invade the central nervous system.


Irregular recurrent fever is the first symptom of the sleeping sickness. Other symptoms of sleeping sickness are weakness, loss of weight, anaemia, increase in pulse rate and severe headache. In the due course the patient falls asleep, first at regular intervals and then lies prostrate in coma. Death is always the ultimate fate in sleeping sickness.


In laboratory,Trypanosomes may be detected in fresh or stained blood films, or in extracts of enlarged lymph glands by a pathologist. In the sleeping sickness stage, examination of cerebrospinal fluid becomes necessary.


The sleeping sickness can be treated in its early stage, but once the Trypanosome have entered the cerebrospinal fluid, it is very hard to control it. a number of drugs can be prescribed by a physician like Suramin sodium, Bayer205, Atoxyl , Tryparsamide ,Parsenophenylbutyric acid, Germanin and Pentamidine. Other drugs such as Orsanine, Melarsen oxide can be prescribed by a pathologist/physician.

The treatment should not begin until the diagnosis of sleeping sickness has been confirmed by laboratory studies on blood by a pathologist/physician.


The prevention of sleeping sickness depends upon the eradication of vector i.e. tsetse fly. This can be eradicated by clearing out the bushes and low trees along rivers in the endemic areas. DDT can be sprayed over bushy areas to control tsetse fly.


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