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African Sleeping Sickness: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

African Sleeping Sickness - Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

Sleeping sickness, also known as African trypanosomiasis, is a tropical disease caused by trypanosome parasites transmitted to humans through the bite of infected tsetse flies. The symptoms include fever, headache, joint pain, and itchiness, followed by disturbed sleep patterns and behavioral changes. If left untreated, it can lead to serious neurological problems and death. It is found in Sub-Saharan Africa and control efforts include reducing tsetse fly populations and treating infected individuals with drugs.

Symptoms and Pathogenesis

  • When the tsetse fly bites, the trypanosome parasites enter into the body.
  • Infection occurred through the inoculation of trypanosome parasites into the human blood stream.
  • Besides development, they also invade lymphatic glands.
  • The disease sleeping sickness has occurred when the parasites invade the cerebrospinal fluid of the central nervous system(brain and spinal cord).
  • Fever is the first symptom of this disease.
  • Other symptoms are weakness, loss of weight, anemia, increase in pulse rate and severe headache.
  • In due course the patient falls asleep, first at regular intervals, and then lies prostrate in coma.
  • Death will always be the ultimate fate if the patient fails to receive medical treatment.


  • In the laboratory, trypanosomes may be detected in blood or in extracts of enlarged lymph glands.
  • In the serious stage of the disease, examination of cerebrospinal fluid becomes necessary.


  • It is important to start the treatment in the early stage.
  • Once the parasites have entered the cerebrospinal fluid, it is very hard to control the disease.
  • A number of drugs such as Suramin sodium, Bayer 205, Atoxyl, and Tryparsamide have been useful in the early stages.
  • Parsenophenyl butyric acid, germanin and pentamidine are also effective in the early stages.
  • Orsanine and Melarsen oxide are effective when the parasites reach the central nervous system.
  • No one should start treatment without the proper diagnosis and prescription from a doctor.


  • Prevention of African Sleeping Sickness depends upon the eradication of the tsetse flies.
  • The flies can be eradicated by clearing out bushes and low trees along rivers.
  • Spraying DDT over bushy areas can be effective in controlling the tsetse flies.
  • Further protection obtained by vaccination can be useful.

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Read More:

  1. Life Cycle of Trypanosoma gambiense | Diagram
  2. Morphology of Trypanosoma gambiense | Diagram
  3. General Characters of All Phylum of The Invertebrates.


  1. “Modern Textbook of Zoology Invertebrates” written by R. L. Kotpal.

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