Human African trypanosomiasis.Handb Clin Neurol. 2013; 114:169-81.HC
Human African trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness is a neglected tropical disease that affects populations in sub-Saharan Africa. The disease is caused by infection with the gambiense and rhodesiense subspecies of the extracellular parasite Trypanosoma brucei, and is transmitted to humans by bites of infected tsetse flies. The disease evolves in two stages, the hemolymphatic and meningoencephalitic stages, the latter being defined by central nervous system infection after trypanosomal traversal of the blood-brain barrier. African trypanosomiasis, which leads to severe neuroinflammation, is fatal without treatment, but the available drugs are toxic and complicated to administer. The choice of medication is determined by the infecting parasite subspecies and disease stage. Clinical features include a constellation of nonspecific symptoms and signs with evolving neurological and psychiatric alterations and characteristic sleep-wake disturbances. Because of the clinical profile variability and insidiously progressive central nervous system involvement, disease staging is currently based on cerebrospinal fluid examination, which is usually performed after the finding of trypanosomes in blood or other body fluids. No vaccine being available, control of human African trypanosomiasis relies on diagnosis and treatment of infected patients, assisted by vector control. Better diagnostic tools and safer, easy to use drugs are needed to facilitate elimination of the disease.