The parasite that causes deadly sleeping sickness turns out to have its own biological clock, a piece of information that may help us destroy it. Researchers at the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute believe it could be especially beneficial for patients whose bodies can’t handle side effects of toxic treatments used to eradicate the parasite.
Reading the parasite’s own internal clock is a key step in finding new ways to treat a variety of parasitic conditions, from sleeping sickness to malaria. Among these conditions, sleeping sickness has been among the most lethal. It is transmitted through the bite of the Tsetse fly and threatens tens of millions of people in sub-Saharan African countries. After entering the body, the parasite causes such symptoms as inverted sleeping cycles, fever, muscle weakness, and itching. It eventually invades the central nervous system and can kill its host in a few months or linger for several years.
Now, simply by knowing the most effective time to administer medications intended to kill the parasite, doctors hope to reduce the duration and dosage of the treatment and save more lives.