The skin as a reservoir for trypanosomes: the key to understanding transmission and disease pathology

Year of award: 2017


  • Dr Annette MacLeod

    University of Glasgow

Project summary

African sleeping sickness is a deadly disease caused by parasites called trypanosomes, which are transmitted from person to person by the bite of an infected tsetse fly. The disease was primarily thought of as a blood disease, and only people with blood parasites are treated. However, we have discovered that trypanosomes also live in the skin of humans even in the absence of parasites in their blood. These people will not be diagnosed or treated but could potentially transmit the disease. This represents a reservoir of parasites that spreads disease and could hinder disease elimination.

The aim of this proposal is: to determine the role of skin-dwelling parasites in spreading disease; to develop tools to detect them; and to identify genes that lead to parasites invading the skin and other organs, causing symptoms.

Understanding these processes will lead to ways in which to prevent disease transmission and alleviate symptoms.