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Sleeping Sickness

Causes Of Sleeping Sickness, And Geographical Distribution Of The Disease, Symptoms And Progression Of Sleeping SicknessDiagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

Sleeping sickness is a protozoan infection passed to humans through the bite of the tsetse fly. It progresses to death within months or years if left untreated.

Diagnosis of sleeping sickness can be made by microscopic examination of fluid from the site of the tsetse fly bite or swollen lymph nodes for examination. A method to diagnose Rhodesian trypanosome involves culturing blood, bone marrow, or spinal fluid. These cultures are injected into rats to promote the development of blood-borne protozoan infection. This infection can be detected in blood smears within one to two weeks.

Medications effective against the Trypanosoma brucei complex protozoa have significant potential for side effects. Suramin, eflornithine, pentamidine, and several drugs which contain arsenic (a chemical which is potentially poisonous) are effective anti-trypanosomal agents. Each of these drugs requires careful monitoring to ensure that they do not cause serious complications such as a fatal hypersensitivity reaction, kidney or liver damage, or inflammation of the brain.

Prevention of sleeping sickness requires avoiding contact with the tsetse fly; insect repellents and clothing which covers the limbs to the wrists and ankles are mainstays. There are currently no immunizations available to prevent sleeping sickness.



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Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt


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Immune system

—That network of tissues and cells throughout the body which is responsible for ridding the body of invaders such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa, etc.


—Single-celled organisms considered to be the simplest life form in the animal kingdom.

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