New treatments for sleeping sickness disease could emerge from a study of sleeping sickness parasite by the University of Edinburgh researchers.
Scientists have found that the parasite, which can transform itself into either of two physical forms, has developed a careful balance between these. One of these types ensures infection in the bloodstream of a victim, and the other type is taken up by the tsetse fly and spread to another person or animal.
The parasite maintains a trade-off between maintaining enough parasites to beat off the immune response and cause infection, and ensuring sufficient parasites to enable the spread of the disease.
"Sleeping sickness parasites alter their form in order to ensure their survival and spread. We hope that, having discovered more about how these parasites behave, we will be able to develop ways of interfering with their survival strategy and interrupt the spread of this disease," said professor Keith Matthews of the University of Edinburgh, who led the study.
The study has been published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe.