Trypanosomiasis or African sleeping sickness is caused due to the bite of an infected tsetse fly. Skin plays a major role in harboring and transmitting parasites. Sleeping sickness can be deadly if untreated.
Every year thousands of people are being killed in Sub-Saharan Africa due to the disease. The reason behind the deaths was found to be the presence of parasites in the blood.
‘Sleeping sickness is deadly due to the presence of parasites in the blood.’
The disease exists within the skin and substantial quantities of trypanosomes which is transmitted back to the tsetse fly vector, says the new study published in the Journal eLife.
"Our results have important implications with regard to the eradication of sleeping sickness. Firstly, our findings indicate that current diagnostic methods, which rely on observing parasites in the blood, should be re-evaluated and should include examining the skin for parasites," said lead researcher Annette MacLeod from University of Glasgow in Britain.
"In terms of treatment, it may also be necessary to develop novel therapeutics capable of targeting sources of infection outside the blood circulation and in the reservoirs underneath the skin," MacLeod noted.
The team of researchers from University of Glasgow's Wellcome Trust Centre for Molecular Parasitology and the Institut Pasteur in Paris were also able to observe the presence of parasites in human skin biopsies from individuals who displayed no symptoms.
The study's findings suggest skin-dwelling parasites could be sufficiently abundant in the skin to be ingested, transmitted and so able to spread the disease further.