The Tsetse fly kills people and livestock in Africa.

Yale School of Public Health and Yale School of Medicine scientist have taken a significant step towards finding a cure for African sleeping sickness, or trypanosomiasis.

This disease, prominent in Sub-Saharan Africa, is caused by a parasite transmitted by the Tsetse fly. According to The Guardian, nearly 50,000 people died of trypanosomiasis in 2008 alone. They’ve been trying to control the Tsetse for more than 100 years, but nothing has worked on a large-scale basis.

A team of scientists from Yale and Rockefeller university for the first time isolated the process of the parasite becoming infectious in a laboratory without the “tse-tse” factor.

“Serendipity happens in science,” says lead researcher, Christian Tschudi, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, who confesses that he didn’t believe the result the first time it happened. “This completely unexpected and unbelievable outcome made us realize that we now have a handle on a stage of the parasite life cycle that has been referred to as the ‘heart of darkness.’ If we figure out how the parasite becomes infectious, we might be able to intervene with this crucial step of its life cycle.”

Since current methods of treatment are either toxic (Melarsoprol, an arsenic derivative which has a fatality rate of 5% and is painful) or difficult to administer (Eflornithine which needs to be given every 2 hours for 14 days) this is a welcome development.

The accomplishment, which researchers hail as a breakthrough, could lead to a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which the pathogen acquires infectivity and might eventually result in studies that block the transmission of the diseasewrote Denise L. Meyer for Yale’s health blog.

Source: Yale Public School Of Health

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