How to Prevent Sleeping Sickness Caused by Tsetse Fly

The tsetse fly of the Glossinidae Family is the source of serious public health problems in Sub-Saharan African countries. These blood suckers are the vector for transmission of Trypanosoma, a parasite that causes sleeping sickness in humans and animals.

When left untreated, the sleeping sickness could be deadly, especially to those that lives in a rural community without access to good health care.

The sleeping sickness plague also has a high mortality rate in livestock animals. Especially in livestock, it is known to have caused damage to the agricultural sector and enormous economic losses.

In order to fight this plague, people have deployed traps designed to reduce the tsetse fly population. The most effective way to make this trap was they would lure and poison them with the chemical 3- Alkyphenol. However, this compound is usually obtained through expensive and complicated chemical processes, making it inaccessible to areas where they are most needed.

The good news is a new study, from researchers at Goethe University in Germany details the development of a cheap “yeast drink”. But they do still create chemicals that attract the tsetse fly and traps them. This new “yeast drink” can easily be produced locally in the rural Sub-Saharan communities most affected by the sleeping sickness.

The team then set out to modify a strain of the popularly used bakery yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This microbe has probably been known to ferment bread, beer and wine for hundreds of years. In addition to being a common ingredient, there are strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae capable of fermenting agricultural waste, a possibility that would make the attractant development very cost-effective.

The researchers then introduced yeast to a new metabolic pathway resulting in high concentrations of the chemical compounds 3-ethylphenol and 3-propylphenol (3-EP and 3-PP), members of the 3-alkylphenol family that show the greatest potential as attractants for the tsetse fly.

Another team of researchers from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia previously found that bovine urine had high concentrations of 3-EP and 3-PP. This discovery also promises to be a sustainable and cost-effective trapper.

In 2012, Researchers from the University of Edinburgh School of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine suggests insecticide use on livestock to be the priority method for controlling tsetse that infects animals.

Because currently there are no vaccine or drugs to prevent or fight this disease, traps are still the best option to reduce the sleeping sickness infection.

The disease progresses slowly, often with minimal or no symptoms in the first few months of infection.

The average duration of symptom development in West African sleeping sickness is three years. Muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, fever, and extreme fatigue are the most common symptoms. If infected, serious medical attention and hospitalization are required. Periodic checkups should be carried out over many years and, re-infection may occur.

The good news is, in the last couple of years, there is a significant increase in the reduction of the sleeping sickness in humans. WHO has targeted the elimination or extinction of the sleeping sickness disease in humans as a priority.

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