New discovery could help combat spread of sleeping sickness

NewsGuard 100/100 Score

A new discovery by scientists could help combat the spread of sleeping sickness.

Insights into how the parasites that cause the disease are able to communicate with one another could help limit the spread of the infection.

The findings suggest that new drugs could be designed to disrupt the flow of messages sent between these infectious microorganisms.

Sleeping sickness - so named because it disrupts sleep patterns - is transmitted by the bite of the tsetse fly, and more than 69 million people in Africa are at risk of infection. Untreated, it can damage the nervous system, leading to coma, organ failure and death.

During infection, the parasites - known as African trypanosomes - multiply in the bloodstream and communicate with each other by releasing a small molecule. When levels of this molecule become sufficiently high, this acts as a signal for the parasites to stop replicating and to change into a form that can be picked up by biting flies and spread.

A team led by researchers at the University of Edinburgh were able to uncover key components of the parasites' messaging system. They used a technique known as gene silencing, to identify those genes that are used to respond to the communication signals and the mechanisms involved.

Professor Keith Matthews, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, who led the research, said: "Parasites are adept at communicating with one another to promote their survival in our bodies and ensure their spread - but by manipulating their messages, new ways to combat these infections are likely to emerge."

Comments

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
Post

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
Scientists design breakthrough drug to combat deadly pancreatic cancer mutation