Human African trypanosomiasis in endemic populations and travellers
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- Blum, J.A., Neumayr, A.L. & Hatz, C.F. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis (2012) 31: 905. doi:10.1007/s10096-011-1403-y
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Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) or sleeping sickness is caused by the protozoan parasites Trypanosoma brucei (T.b.) gambiense (West African form) and T.b. rhodesiense (East African form) that are transmitted by the bite of the tsetse fly, Glossina spp.. Whereas most patients in endemic populations are infected with T.b. gambiense, most tourists are infected with T.b. rhodesiense. In endemic populations, T.b. gambiense HAT is characterized by chronic and intermittent fever, headache, pruritus, and lymphadenopathy in the first stage and by sleep disturbances and neuro-psychiatric disorders in the second stage. Recent descriptions of the clinical presentation of T.b. rhodesiense in endemic populations show a high variability in different foci. The symptomatology of travellers is markedly different from the usual textbook descriptions of African HAT patients. The onset of both infections is almost invariably an acute and febrile disease. Diagnosis and treatment are difficult and rely mostly on old methods and drugs. However, new molecular diagnostic technologies are under development. A promising new drug combination is currently evaluated in a phase 3 b study and further new drugs are under evaluation.