Sleeping sickness

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"Sleeping sickness" is also another name for Narcolepsy.
Trypanosomes in a blood smear

Sleeping sickness, or African trypanosomiasis, is an infectious disease. It is caused by parasites from the species Trypanosoma brucei.

People get African trypanosomiasis from the tsetse fly. Because of this, it is most common in certain areas of Africa, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, where the tsetse fly lives. Researchers say that about 70 million people, in 36 countries, are at a high risk for getting sleeping sickness.[1] As of 2010, sleeping sickness had caused around 9,000 deaths per year (compared to 34,000 in 1990).[2]

In 2013, about 30,000 people had African trypanosomiasis. Also, about 7,000 more people were getting the disease every year.[3] More than 80% of these people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[3]

Medications can treat African trypanosomiasis. The treatment is usually done in a hospital, because the drugs have many side effects. For sleeping sickness that was not treated early, the medications used for treatment are based on arsenic, a poison. These medications are dangerous, and about 5% of people die from taking them.

The best way to protect against African trypanosomiasis is to protect against insect bites.

Signs and symptoms[change | change source]

The signs and symptoms of African trypanosomiasis happen in two stages.

The hemolyphatic phase[change | change source]

Common symptoms in this stage include:

If African trypanosomiasis is not treated at this point, the parasite will also get into the circulatory system and defeat the body's natural defenses. If this happens, the person can have:

The neurological phase[change | change source]

This phase begins when the parasite invades the central nervous system by passing through the blood–brain barrier.

In this stage, one of the most common symptoms is trouble sleeping. This is where the name "sleeping sickness" comes from. People in this stage often cannot sleep normally, and may be up all night and then sleep during the day..[4]

Other symptoms in this stage can include:[5]

Without treatment, a person with African sleeping sickness will go into a coma; (thus the name) all their important organs will stop working; and they will die.[6]Damage caused in the neurological phase cannot be fixed.[6]

References[change | change source]

  1. Simarro PP, Cecchi G, Franco JR (2012). "Estimating and mapping the population at risk of sleeping sickness". PLoS Negl Trop Dis 6 (10): e1859. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0001859. PMC 3493382. PMID 23145192. http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0001859.
  2. Lozano, R (15 December 2012). "Global and regional mortality from 235 causes of death for 20 age groups in 1990 and 2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.". Lancet 380 (9859): 2095–128. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61728-0. PMID 23245604.
  3. 3.0 3.1 WHO Media centre (March 2014). "Fact sheet N°259: Trypanosomiasis, Human African (sleeping sickness)". World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs259/en/. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  4. GB Lundkvist, K Kristensson, M Bentivoglio (2004). "Why Trypanosomes Cause Sleeping Sickness". Physiology 19 (4): 198–206. doi:10.1152/physiol.00006.2004.
  5. Brun R, Blum J, Chappuis F, Burri C (January 2010). "Human African trypanosomiasis". Lancet 375 (9709): 148–59. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60829-1. PMID 19833383. http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0140-6736(09)60829-1.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "East African Trypanosomiasis FAQs". Parasites — African Trypanosomiasis (also known as Sleeping Sickness). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 29 August 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/sleepingsickness/gen_info/faqs-east.html.