Sleeping Sickness

This is disease caused by trypanaosma parasite, T.brucei and is characterized by inflammation of the brain and linings of the brain. This disease is also known as Sleeping sickness. There are two types of African trypanosomiasis disease, the East African type, which is caused by T.brucei rhodesiense, and the West African type caused by T brucei gambiense.


The disease is transmitted by the bite of tsetse fly found only in Africa. At first the trypanosomes multiply in the blood a process that may take years in the cases of T.brucei rhodesiense. In very rare cases it can be transmitted from an infected pregnant mother to the unborn child.


A tsetse fly bite is often painful and can develop into a red sore, called a chancre. In the case of East African trypanosomiasis, other symptoms occur within 1 to 4 weeks of infection and include fever, severe headache, irritability, extreme tiredness, swollen lymph glands, and aching muscles and joints. Weight loss and a body rash are also common. Infection of the central nervous system causes confusion, personality changes, slurred speech, seizures, and difficulty in walking and talking. If left untreated, the illness becomes worse, and death occurs within several weeks to months. Persons with West African trypanosomiasis sometimes develop a chancre 1 to 2 weeks after the tsetse fly bite. Other symptoms occur several weeks to months later and include fever, rash, swelling around the eyes and hands, severe headaches, extreme tiredness, and aching muscles and joints. Some people develop swollen lymph glands on the back of the neck. Weight loss occurs as the illness worsens. Infection of the central nervous system causes personality changes, irritability, loss of concentration, confusion, slurred speech, seizures, and difficulty in walking and talking. Many patients sleep for a long time during the day and have trouble sleeping at night. Without treatment, the illness gets worse and results in death several months to years after infection.


The diagnosis rests upon demonstrating trypanosomes by microscopic examination of chancre fluid, lymph node aspirates, blood, bone marrow, or, in the late stages of infection, cerebrospinal fluid.


Treatment should be started as soon as possible and is based on the infected person’s symptoms and laboratory results. If diagnosed early the chances of cure are high .The drug regimen depends on the infecting species and the stage of infection. Hopsitalization is needed for treatment and periodic follow up exams are required for at least 2 years.


There is no vaccine or drug to prevent African trypanosomiasis. When traveling in areas where the disease occurs, take these precautions against bites from tsetse flies and other insects: Wear protective clothing, including long-sleeved shirts and pants. Tsetse flies can bite through thin fabrics, so clothing should be made of thick material. Wear khaki or olive-colored clothing. Tsetse flies are attracted to bright and dark colors.

Use bed nets.

Inspect vehicles for tsetse flies before entering. Do not ride in the back of jeeps, pickup trucks, or other open vehicles. Tsetse flies are attracted to dust churned up by moving vehicles and animals.

Avoid bushes. Tsetse flies are less active during the hottest part of the day; they rest in bushes and will bite if disturbed. Use insect repellent. Although repellents have not proven effective in preventing tsetse fly bites, they are effective in preventing other insects from biting and causing illness.

African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) By WHO
Overview of African Trypanosomiasis (Sleeping Sickness)
Sleeping sickness during travel
Sleeping Sickness BY CDC

Last Updated on Tuesday 18th January 2011